Best Time to Trim Shrubs
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 stipulations.
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 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 have flowers, 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:
- Electric Trimmers
- Lightweight Oil to Lubricate Electric Trimmers
- Extension Cords
- Hand Trimmers
- Bench Grinder
- Flat & Round Files
- Tarps or old Sheets or Blankets
- Garbage Cans or Disposable Lawn Bags
Step 1 – Create a Tools Needed List and Order Your Tools
Since this is a labor only project, you will NOT need to do any thing more than assess the tools that you need and order what you do NOT have. Once you have the needed tools on hand, you are ready to begin this project.
Step 2 – Clean, Sharpen, & Oil Your Trimmers & Pruners
Before you begin trimming, you need to Clean, Sharpen, & 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.
Then 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 3 – 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. When you are finished trimming, carefully gather the tarp 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 4 – 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:
- Using your loppers, cut any branches that are too thick for your pruners to handle.
- Use your electric trimmers to shape and trim the majority of your shrubs.
- Use your hand trimmers and pruners to touch up and fine tune your shaping.
1. If you have never trimmed any shrubs or evergreen before, it will be best to start with the smallest one 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.
2. 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, using a line level if desired in order to get the
hedge perfectly level.
3. 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.
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 5 – Trim Evergreens
Once all of your shrubs have been trimmed, it is time to repeat the process on your evergreens.
After spreading 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.
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!