How to Prune an Evergreen Tree

by Alex Kountry
Updated on

How to Prune an Evergreen Tree – The correct way to prune an evergreen tree is extremely important. If you make a mistake, you can damage the tree and the growth.

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Pruning Basics

Pruning is the selective removal of certain plant parts. It is a normal and necessary part of plant maintenance. It is done to remove dead or dying branches, to promote new growth, or to shape and control the direction of a plant’s growth. Pruning can also be used to thin out a plant, to remove crossing or rubbing branches, or to reduce the size of a plant.

What is pruning?

Pruning is the selective removal of plant parts. It is a normal, necessary process used to shape and maintain landscapes,from legendary topiaries to your own backyard hedges. Pruning can also improve plant health by removing Dead, Dying or Diseased Wood (3-Ds), as well as crossing or rubbing branches.

When done properly, pruning can rejuvenate aging plants, inspire new growth and increase flower and fruit production. But over-pruning can damage trees and shrubs, so it’s important to know when, how and why to prune.

Why do you need to prune?

Most evergreen trees need to be pruned every year or two to remove dead or diseased branches and to maintain their shape. Most evergreens can be pruned in late winter or early spring before new growth begins.

Pine trees are an exception and should only be pruned in the summer when new growth is visible. Pruning pine trees at the wrong time can damage them and make them more susceptible to disease.

When is the best time to prune?

The best time to prune evergreen trees is in late spring or early summer, just after the new growth has hardened off. You can tell that the new growth has hardened off when you can no longer indent it with your thumbnail. Hardened-off growth is less likely to be damaged by pruning cuts, and the cuts will heal more quickly.

Types of Pruning

Pruning an evergreen tree can be done for a number of reasons. You may need to remove dead branches, shape the tree, or promote growth. The type of pruning you do will depend on the reason you are doing it. Let’s take a look at the different types of pruning.


Deadheading is the process of removing spent blooms from a plant. This encourages the plant to produce more flowers and can improve the plant’s overall appearance. Deadheading is usually done with scissors or shears, but you can also simply snap the spent blooms off with your fingers.

To deadhead an evergreen tree, start by removing any dead or dying leaves. Then, cut back any branches that are crowding or Rubbing against other branches. Finally, cut off any flower buds that have already bloomed.


Thinning is the selective removal of live branches to increase light penetration and air circulation within the tree. It is important to thin newly planted trees as they develop to promote strong branch structure. Thinning also helps reduce the wind resistance of taller evergreens, making them less likely to topple during severe weather. When pruning, always remove entire branches back to the point of origin. Do not leave stubs, as these can die and provide entry points for pests and disease.

Heading Back

Heading Back, also called “topping” refers to the indiscriminate cutting of branches back to the main trunk of the tree. It is an extreme pruning technique that should be avoided if at all possible. Topping leaves large ugly stubs that never heal properly and make the tree vulnerable to disease and decay.

Tools of the Trade

To prune an evergreen tree, you will need a few tools. First, you will need a pair of pruning shears. These shears are similar to scissors, but they are designed specifically for cutting through plant material. You will also need a saw. A handsaw or a pole saw will work for most evergreen trees. Finally, you will need a ladder.

Hand pruners

The most common type of pruning tool is the hand pruner, also called clippers. These look like large scissors and have a curved blade on one side and a straight blade on the other. The curved blade is used for cutting stems, while the straight blade is used for cutting larger branches. Hand pruners come in two sizes: standard and bypass. Standard hand pruners have blades that meet in the middle, making them ideal for cutting dry or old wood. Bypass hand pruners have blades that slide past each other, making them better for cutting green, living wood.

You’ll also need a pair of loppers for cutting larger branches, as well as a pruning saw for branches that are too thick to be cut with hand pruners or loppers. Pruning saws come in two varieties: a standard crosscut saw and a Japanese-style flush-cut saw. A crosscut saw has teeth that are evenly spaced along the blade and is best suited for general pruning tasks. A flush-cut saw has teeth that are set very close together near the handle and is designed specifically for making flush cuts (cuts that are made level with the branch).


Loppers are long-handled pruning shears with blades anywhere from 12 to 36 inches long. The longer the blade, the greater the cutting power — but the heavier the tool. Choose a lopper with blades that are at least as long as your forearm, but not so long that you can’t comfortably control it with one hand.

Loppers come in two basic varieties: anvil and bypass. Anvil loppers have a sharpened blade that cuts against a flat surface on the body of the tool, like the cutting surface of a hammer. Bypass loppers have circular blades that slide past each other, like scissors. Anvil loppers are better for deadwood because they can cut through thicker branches; bypass loppers make cleaner cuts on living tissue and are less likely to crush stems.

Pole saws

Pole saws are the perfect tool for pruning high branches on evergreen trees. They give you the reach you need to cut branches without having to climb the tree, and they are much lighter and easier to use than a chainsaw.

There are two main types of pole saws: gas-powered and electric. Gas-powered pole saws are more powerful and can be used for larger branches, but they are also heavier and more expensive. Electric pole saws are lighter and less expensive, but they will only work if you have a power outlet nearby.

When choosing a pole saw, make sure to get one that is made specifically for cutting branches (not just limbs). Look for a saw with a sharp, replaceable blade that can be easily adjusted to the correct angle. It is also important to choose a pole saw with a comfortable handle that will not slip when you are using it.

How to Prune an Evergreen Tree

Pruning an evergreen tree is a necessary evil. While it may seem like you’re doing harm to the tree, pruning is actually a good thing. It helps to encourage new growth, remove dead or diseased branches, and promote the overall health of the tree. Let’s take a look at how to properly prune an evergreen tree.

Step-by-step guide

Whether you have a Christmas tree, holly bush, or live in a cold climate with evergreen trees, you will eventually need to prune them. In this article, we will show you how to prune an evergreen tree step-by-step.

First, identify the branching structure of the tree. The main branches should be evenly spaced out around the trunk. These are called “scaffold branches.” Secondary branches should also be evenly spaced out around the scaffold branches.

Start by pruning away any dead or diseased branches. Cut these branches back to the point where they branch off from a healthy branch.

Next, prune away any branch that is rubbing against another branch. These branches can damage each other over time, so it’s best to remove them before they cause any damage.

Next, prune away any branch that is growing at an odd angle from the rest of the tree. These branches can weaken the tree and make it more susceptible to damage in heavy winds.

Finally, trim away any branch that is longer than necessary. These long branches can whip back and forth in strong winds and break off.

Now that you know how to prune an evergreen tree, put your new knowledge to use and keep your trees healthy and strong!

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About the author

Alex Kountry

Alex Kountry is the founder of HayFarmGuy and has been a backyard farmer for over 10 years. Since then he has decided to write helpful articles that will help you become a better backyard farmer and know what to do. He also loves to play tennis and read books


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