Best Time – Prune Shrubs

Best Time – Prune Shrubs


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Trim Shrubs and Evergreens

Trim Shrubs and Evergreens


Best Time – Prune Shrubs is a post that will instruct you on how to trim you Shrubs and Evergreens and when is the best time to accomplish this. You can trim Shrubs and Evergreens at any time during the year, but there are optimal times, depending on the types of Plants that you wish to trim. For most Shrubs and Evergreens, the optimal times to trim are during the months of June and again in September. However, there are a few exceptions.


For Flowering Shrubs, such as Lilacs, Forsythias, etc., which flower in the Spring, the best time to trim them is within a couple of weeks of the Plants ending their blooming cycle. You do not want to retrim these types of plants in the Fall, because shortly after they end their blooming cycle, they begin to develop new buds for the next years blooms. If you trim these types of Plants after their buds are beginning to develop, you will not have good blooms the following year. Flowering Shrubs should only be trimmed once they are done blooming, and before new buds develop.


Evergreens and other Shrubs that do not flower, generally grow during the cooler months, and not so much during the hot Summer months. So, most of these types of Plants will stop growing during July & August. The heaviest growth time is in the Spring, usually through the month of June. Then, they will grow a little during September.

So, the best time to trim these will be at the end of June or beginning of July, with some touch up toward the end of September or beginning of October. These Plants can also be trimmed at any time during their dormant period, usually, October thru February.


The easiest way to trim is to start with the correct sharpened Tools. This will consist of the following:


Tools and Supplies Needed:

  • Loppers
  • Electric Trimmers
  • Extension Cords
  • Lightweight Oil to lubricate Electric Trimmers
  • Hand Trimmers
  • Pruners
  • Bench Grinder or Flat File
  • Round File
  • Tarps or old Sheets or Blankets
  • Rake
  • Broom
  • Garbage Cans or Disposable Lawn Bags


Purchase Loppers at:

Purchase Electric Trimmers at:

Purchase Hand Trimmers at:

Purchase Pruners at:

Purchase Pruner Holster at:




Step-by-Step Instructions


Step 1 – Assess the Project


Since this is a labor only Project, you will not need to do much more than Assess the Tools and Supplies Needed and order what you do not have. Also, check your Tools to make sure that they are in good shape, and which ones may need to be sharpened. Once you have the Tools and Supplies Needed on hand you are ready to begin this Project.

The only other Assessment needed is to determine which Plants you will be trimming, and which ones you should leave alone for now, depending on the time of year that it is.


Step 2 – Create a Materials & Tools Needed Sheet


Add the Tools and Supplies Needed to your sheet.


Step 3 – Calculate Project Cost


Step 4 – Order Your Materials & Tools Needed


Step 5 – Inspect Your Delivery


After reviewing the information here, additional information to complete these first (5) Steps is found in the page:  5 Steps for Project Management.  Simply click on that link and you will be directed there.

After completing those first (5) Steps, return to these Instructions and continue on to Step 6.


Step 6 – Clean, Sharpen, & Oil Your Trimmers & Pruners


Before you begin trimming, you need to Clean, Sharpen, and Oil Your Trimmers & Pruners.


  • Begin by taking your Pruners and use them to scrape off all of the sap on your Trimmers, both Hand Trimmers and Electric ones. Pay special attention to the cutting edges. Make sure that these are completely clean.


  • Then, using either your Bench Grinder or Flat File, sharpen up the cutting edges on your Hand Trimmers, being careful to maintain the factory angle on the cutting edge blades. If you are using a File, place pressure downward when using, and only File in one direction, being careful not to round off at the end. If needed, tighten the nut which holds the two blades together. Do not over tighten, keeping the scissor action nice and free moving.


  • Next, using a Round File in the same manner, sharpen up the cutting edges on your Electric Trimmers, again, being careful to maintain the factory bevel. Once sharpened, oil the center bar on both sides where the blades move back and forth. Use a light weight oil, like Machine Oil or Sewing Machine Oil. Once oiled, plug them in and run them for a few minutes in order to spread the oil evenly across the moving parts. Wipe off any excess oil with a Rag.


  • Lastly, use your Grinder or Flat File to sharpen your Pruner blades. Now that your Tools are sharp and ready to work, it is time to begin trimming.


Step 7 – Set Up Your Tarps


Tarping around your Shrubs and Evergreens will make cleanup much, much, easier. You can either use standard Plastic Tarps or old sheets or old blankets. This will save you a lot of hand picking of the trimmings, especially important if your Beds contain Mulch or Decorative Stone.


  • Surround your Tarps around the base of your Plants, keeping the Tarps firmly flat on the ground so that your Trimmers do not cut them while you are trimming. When you are finished trimming, carefully gather the Tarps up, being careful not to spill the trimmings, and deposit them in a Yard Waste Bag or Garbage Can. Then, repeat the process, laying out the Tarps around the next set of Shrubs or Evergreens to be trimmed.


Step 8 – Trim Shrubbery First


If you have a combination of Shrubs and Evergreens on your Property, it is always best to begin trimming your Shrubs first. This will be performed in (3) stages:

  1. Using your Loppers, cut any branches that are too thick for your Pruners to handle.
  2. Use your Electric Trimmers to shape and trim the majority of your Shrubs.
  3. Use your Hand Trimmers and Pruners to touch up and fine tune your shaping.


  • Remember to know whether or not your Shrubs flower before deciding to trim them. If you have just moved into a new Home, and are not sure of what flowers and what does not, you may need to do a little research before you trim. Take a clipping of each of your Shrubs and head over to your local Nursery; a real Nursery, not a Home Depot or a Walmart. You can either walk around and try to match up your clippings to the Plants that they have there, or ask someone that works there to identify the Plant clippings and tell you whether of not they flower and when.


  • If you have never trimmed any Shrubs or Evergreens before, it will be best to start with the smallest Shrub on your Property. First, decide on the shape of your Shrub, whether round or flat, and the approximate size of the finished shape. Begin by doing the sides of the Plant first, and using your Loppers to cut any large branches that are too thick for your Electric Trimmers or Pruners to handle. Then do the same with your top.


  • Then take your Electric Trimmers and shape your Plant as desired, whether round, flat, or special shape. If you have never done this before, you may be a little unsure of yourself at first. Just take your time, and do not cut off too much at once, until you feel that you have the general shape correct. Then trim lower until you are satisfied. If you are trimming a row of Hedges, you can set up Stakes at either end and run a String Line in between at the height that you wish the final trimming to be. Use a Line Level, if desired, in order to get the Hedge perfectly level.


  • Once you have the general shape defined, take your Hand Trimmers and Pruners and fine tune your shape. Electric Trimmers will sometimes shred the ends of the branches, especially on Evergreens. This will happen more often if your Trimmers are either not sharp enough, or have collected a lot of sap. You can easily fix this using your Hand Trimmers.


  • Once you think you are finished with a Shrub, take a step back to around 10’ away and assess your work. Things may look a bit different than when you are close up. Touch up as needed. Then, wrap up your Tarp and dispose of the trimmings, raking up any that fell outside of the Tarp. Repeat the process for all other Shrubs on your Property.


  • Practice will make perfect over time. If you do not get the trimming to your satisfaction the first time, do not worry. You can either trim them a little shorter now in an attempt to correct your mistakes, or the Plants will grow again and you will have another shot at getting things more to your liking the next time that they need trimming.


Step 9 – Trim Evergreens


Once all of your Shrubs have been trimmed, it is time to repeat the process on your Evergreens.


  • After spreading out your Tarps, begin by shaping up your sides first, then your tops. If you have some thick branches, begin by clipping these first with your Pruners or Loppers. Then, go on to using your Electric Trimmers and finally, your Hand Trimmers and Pruners for the touch up.


  • If you are doing specially shaped Topiaries, it is best to only use your Hand Trimmers and Pruners for the trimming. They are easier to control in order to insure that you get the best shaping possible without taking too much off.


Once Everything Has Been Trimmed, Stand Back and Admire Your Work.


Clean up your mess and put all of your Tools away.


Hopefully, a Job Well Done!


Please take the time to leave a Comment or ask a Question in the Comments section below. Let me know how your Project went.



CJ Dodaro

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