Pruning Overgrown Hedges

No matter the quantity or size, getting your evergreens to look well-groomed can seem like an ambitious task. However, whether you've just moved into a new house where someone let the garden run wild or you're trying to catch up on long overdue gardening tasks, there are ways to prune evergreens efficiently and effectively.

What Are Considered Evergreens?

Quite simply, an evergreen is a plant that keeps its leaves through all seasons. Their ability to keep foliage all through the year makes them popular plants for hedges. Typically, evergreen shrubs should be pruned immediately after flowering, usually in mid- to late-spring. To properly prune evergreen shrubs:
  • Remove diseased, dead or damaged flowers, branches and shoots
  • Thin crowded shoots, and remove those growing in the 'wrong' places
  • Feed with a high-potassium fertilizer to revitalize shrubs

 

Handling Overgrown Evergreens

If evergreen hedges or shrubs have been neglected, pruning must be done with caution and care to prevent damage.
 
The key to properly pruning evergreens is to use the right technique for the kind of evergreen you're hoping to revive.

Severe Pruning

There are a number of evergreen varieties that can tolerate severe pruning. These include holly, laurel, box, camellia and yew. Generally, you should be able to lop the offensive portions of these evergreens right down to ground level and achieve reasonable recovery over time.

Moderated Pruning

Most evergreens won't tolerate being lopped back so hard all in one swoop. For moderate pruning, it's best to start by removing between one-third and one-half of the branches and shoots to just above ground level.
 
You can also reshape the remaining portion of the shrub by reducing all other growth by about one-third over the course of the year. Over the next two or three years, continue removing up to half the oldest shoots on the shrub annually.
 
Whichever pruning approach works for your plants, it is important to fertilize and water the plant well throughout the seasons to help nurse it back to health; a little mulch never hurts either.