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How to Trim Overgrown Bushes & Shrubs

By Elton Dunn ; Updated September 21, 2017
Proper pruning of overgrown shrubs takes years.

Over time, old shrubs that have not been pruned annually can turn into overgrown yard monsters, detracting from the appearance of your home and yard. Gardeners can trim overgrown bushes and shrubs, gradually replacing the old wood with new. This keeps the shrub healthy and looking attractive. Always prune in the dormant season, late winter to early spring once frost danger has passed for your region. Since deciduous shrubs or bushes have no foliage it will be easier to make cuts at this time.

Look for dead or diseased branches on your bush or shrub. Removing these keeps the plant healthy and cuts back on the spread disease. Dead branches feel brittle and don't move with the wind. Diseased ones may be scarred, wounded or discolored.

Cut off dead or diseased branches at their base using anvil pruners for cuts thinner than 3/4-inch and lopping shears for thicker ones. To prevent disease from spreading, spray your pruning tools with disinfectant between each cut.

Clip off up to 1/3 of the old, overgrown branches, bearing in mind the total amount of unhealthy wood you just removed. Remove fewer branches if there was a lot of poor wood. Discard the clippings and wait until the second year.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 in the second year. There should be less unhealthy wood since you removed so much in the prior season. Again clip off up to 1/3 of the overgrown old branches. There should be 1/3 old growth wood remaining when you finish the second year pruning.

Repeat steps 1 to 3 in the third and final year. Your old overgrown shrub will be replaced with new wood.

Trim the shrub annually to maintain a compact shape and prevent it from getting overgrown again. Trim back the tips of branches once or twice in a season using anvil pruners. Always remove dead and diseased wood.


Things You Will Need

  • Anvil pruners
  • Lopping shears
  • Disinfectant spray

About the Author


A successful website writer since 1998, Elton Dunn has demonstrated experience with technology, information retrieval, usability and user experience, social media, cloud computing, and small business needs. Dunn holds a degree from UCSF and formerly worked as professional chef. Dunn has ghostwritten thousands of blog posts, newsletter articles, website copy, press releases and product descriptions. He specializes in developing informational articles on topics including food, nutrition, fitness, health and pets.