The Q&A Archives: Pruning Evergreens

Question: My six-foot evergreen has many brown needles. Should I prune it drastically, and is this the right time of year for doing that?

Answer: Some browning of evergreen needles is natural. The needles, or leaves, last only about three years. Then they fall off. If the older needles close to the center of the tree are falling, it's a natural occurance. If needles toward the tips of the branches are falling, it may indicate a disease or insect infestation. You might want to carefully inspect your tree to rule out those possiblilites. Finally, evergreens are not as forgiving as other kinds of shrubs and trees. If you make some wrong pruning cuts, you could end up with a badly misshapen tree. With deciduous trees, new limbs and branches will grow to fill in bare spots. With evergreens, new branches and limbs may not grow again from the trunk, and you may end up with big gaps between branches. If you decide to prune, now is a good time, and you can use the boughs you remove as mulch material for other areas of your garden.

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