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What's the Best Time to Prune Evergreen Shrubs?

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Picture of the Hicks Yew

Picture of the Hicks Yew Shrub

Courtesy: Missouri Botanical Garden
Question: What's the Best Time to Prune Evergreen Shrubs?
In general, prune needle-bearing evergreen shrubs in early spring, toward the end of dormancy and prior to emergence of new growth. Pruning evergreen shrubs at this time allows plenty of time for new growth to emerge, as well as plenty of time for these new shoots to harden off before the following winter. But you'll often wish to treat broadleaf evergreen shrubs (and some needle-bearing varieties) differently....
Answer:

While, technically speaking, you may treat broadleaf evergreen shrubs in the manner described above, there are often reasons not to treat them as you would needle-bearing evergreen shrubs.

For instance, if they are flowering shrubs, you'll want to wait until after the flowering period to prune. Otherwise, you'll miss that year's blooms.

Moreover, for evergreen shrubs (whether broadleaf or needle-bearing) that comprise hedges, you may want to prune after their new growth has emerged in spring. It is, after all, mainly the new growth that affords opportunity for shaping (assuming, of course, that you've been maintaining the hedge all along). Among needle-bearing evergreen shrubs, hemlock is a popular choice for hedges, because it's amenable to pruning.

In the next FAQ on garden shrubs, we'll discuss the matter of offering winter protection to flowering shrubs.

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