Gardening Help FAQs

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we receive about garden plants. You will find concise information on general gardening techniques as well as plant selection and care. For detailed information on specific plant pests and problems refer to our Common Garden Pests and Problems page.

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Horticulture Questions and Answers

How do I prune my evergreens?

Most evergreen shrubs used as foundation plantings need yearly pruning to keep them in good condition and at the desired size. Before cutting, study the natural form of the evergreen. When you prune, follow the general branch pattern to preserve the plant's character. Try to cut back to side shoots or buds to leave a natural look. Be sure and use sharp pruning shears. Good pruning is an art that develops with practice, but here are the proper pruning techniques to use for some of the common evergreens.

Pine: cut or pinch off up to one half the length of the new growth, called candles, as they elongate in late spring. This should be done yearly to keep plants small.

Arborvitae: shear along sides and top to keep the growth thick and the plant at the desired size. Prune in early spring or in mid-summer.

Juniper: this is a large and very popular group of evergreens. Shear upright forms regularly at the sides and the top to keep the desired shape. Prune shrub forms by cutting back the most vigorous branches to side shoots. Pruning can be done at any time of year.

Japanese yew: shear or selectively prune back to side shoots or buds depending upon the effect you want. Light pruning throughout the year is best, but severe pruning can be done in early spring if the plants are overgrown.

Spruce: spruce needs very little pruning. If growth is rapid, open spaces may develop. To reduce open spaces at the top, cut the leader back to a lateral bud in the early spring before new growth begins. If the pruning causes a double leader to form, remove one of the leaders as soon as you detect the problem. Although spruce can be sheared, the effect is unnatural and not generally recommended.