Shearing Evergreen Trees - Knowledgebase Question

Bethel, CT
Question by SpearB
December 8, 1999
How do I prune evergreen trees to make them fill out? They are 8 to 10 feet tall. I'd like to use them for Christmas trees in the coming years.

Answer from NGA
December 8, 1999


I'm assuming you are talking about trees in your landscape and not a plantation of trees to be sold as Christmas trees. The latter are sheared annually as very young trees with an overall trim to achieve those "fat" shapes. Shearing is generally not the best method for long-term health of most plants, but since these trees are destined to be cut young, it is acceptable.

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:

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