How to Prune Western Hemlock


Western hemlock is a tall and stately narrow leaf conifer. Small cones hang from the ends of branchlets. The western hemlock prefers full sun but is tolerant of partial to complete shade, although its growth will not be as vigorous in the shade. A mature hemlock will attain a height of 40 to 60 feet. The Western hemlock is native to the Pacific West Coast and is also known as the Pacific hemlock or the West Coast hemlock. The Western hemlock will require pruning to remove dead or damaged branches to maintain its shape and space in your landscape, or to provide clearance underneath the tree. Most conifers need very little pruning during the early stages of growth. The tool that you use will depend upon the size and location of the branch or new growth.

Step 1

Cut off any damaged branches as soon as possible. Make sure you do not leave a stub and that you make a clean cut so that the tree will heal properly.

Step 2

Head back new growth with your hand pruning shears. The cut should be made just in front of a lateral bud. (Note: Old wood and branches do not produce buds.) This can be done in early spring.

Step 3

Cut off lower branches to provide clearance underneath the evergreen tree. Make a clean cut and do not leave a stub. his can be done in the early spring or late fall. This will depend upon your personal preferences and your landscape design. Some people prefer to leave the lower branches in place.

Tips and Warnings

  • Do not prune near electrical wires because this can be dangerous. This should be left to the electric company.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand pruning shears
  • Lopping shears
  • Pole pruner
  • Tree saw


  • Johnson's Nursery Inc.
  • University of Rhode Island
  • University of Idaho--College of Agriculture
Keywords: western hemlock prune, conifer evergreen remove dead branches, head back new growth

About this Author

Paula M. Ezop’s inspirational column "Following the Spiritual Soul" appeared in "Oconee Today," a Scripps Howard publication. She has published her first book, "SPIRITUALITY for Mommies," and her children's chapter book, "The Adventures of Penelope Star," will be published by Wiggles Press. Ezop has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University and has been writing for 10 years.