How to Prune Cedar Trees for Boughs


The abundant branches of evergreen cedars in both formal gardens and natural woodlands across much of eastern North America are an economical and convenient source of greenery for holiday decorating. Cedars are rarely need pruning, regardless of their species. Selectively cutting branches on a tree can yield nice lengths of foliage, as well as clusters of the blue-black berries on eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginianus).

Step 1

Examine the cedar trees, looking for irregular or errant branches for holiday boughs. Also look for branches encroaching upon another or a nearby structure, tree or rock.

Step 2

Put on thick gloves. Cedar needles can be prickly and small twigs can remain on branches.

Step 3

Snip small branches flush with or no more than a quarter-inch away from larger branches or junctions. Use the hand pruners to make a crisp, one-motion cut with the blades, avoiding partial cuts that could tear the bark as you pull the branch away.

Step 4

Cut larger branches--with a diameter larger than a half-inch--with loppers or a hand pruning saw.

Step 5

Allow larger branches to fall from the tree after being cut, and drag them nearby to further cut away boughs during the harvest. Removed limbs can be cut up as needed, do not worry about spacing or location of pruning snips.

Tips and Warnings

  • Keep cedar boughs away from open flames in your home. Once the needles become dry, they are especially prone to igniting if too near a burning candle or fireplace.

Things You'll Need

  • Thick gloves (cotton or leather)
  • Hand pruners (secateurs)
  • Loppers
  • Hand pruning saw


  • University of Maine Cooperative Extension
  • University of Saskatchewan Extension

Who Can Help

  • List of Cedars
Keywords: pruning junipers, Juniperus, evergreen boughs

About this Author

James Burghardt has written for The Public Garden, Docent Educator, numerous non-profit newsletters and for's comprehensive plant database. He holds a Master's degree in Public Horticulture from the University of Delaware and studied horticulture and biology in Australia at Murdoch University and the University of Melbourne's Burnley College.