The Q&A Archives: Pruning Alberta Spruce

Question: When is the proper time to prune/trim a dwarf Alberta spruce? "In the spring", advises the leading garden publication in the west. If I wait until spring, I will be removing a considerable amount of new foliage. And because I haven't wanted to remove brand new growth, my spruce is not as symmetrical as it could be. The reason being, I've not pruned it at all. In advance, thank you for your time and consideration.

Answer: Many types of evergreen shrubs and trees need little or no pruning to keep them in prime condition. Here are some general guidelines for pruning evergreens:

Prune trees or shrubs of narrow leaf needle type, such as pines, spruce and fir, according to growth characteristics.

Prune those that produce side buds on the shoots, such as spruce, fir and Douglas-fir, by cutting the tips back to the desired length in late winter or early spring when buds are dormant. The recommended place for cuts is just above a side bud or side branch.

In plants which produce few side buds, such as pines, pruning may be accomplished by pinching or snapping off with the fingers a portion of the young growth "candles" that form in late spring and early summer. The proper time to prune is when the "candles" snap off easily and cleanly. Avoid cutting these plants with a knife or shears, since this method invariably injures some of the needles and later gives the plant a general brown appearance.

For even more detailed information about pruning evergreens according to their growth habits, visit the following website:

Good luck with your spruce!

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