FAQ About Trimming And Shaping Shrubs

Trimming shrubs

Most people see trimming and shaping shrubs as a chore, so shrubs sometimes suffer as a result.

Knowing how to prune and when to prune is important because you don’t want to remove any flower buds because you trimmed them too late in the winter or early spring.

Because of this, I have gathered several common questions about trimming and shaping shrubs.


When pruning shrubs, make an angled cut depending on how the shrub produces new buds.

Shrubs that produce alternating buds that alternate left to right as you go up the stem need to be trimmed about one and a half inches above a bud.

On the other hand, if a shrub produces buds that form two buds on either side of the stem then the angled cut needs to be made below the bud.

If I can comfortably reach all around the shrub, then I prefer using a hand tool such as a pair of pruning shears.

This is because it makes shaping easier to prune bushes and I prefer a gas or electric hedge trimmer for large shrubs or hedges because of the time savings.

Just remember when you trim, take your time when using a gas or electric trimmer so you can keep the shape of the bush that you want.

Before trimming bushes, it’s best to clean the blades with 90% isopropyl alcohol to make sure that they are plant-disease-free.

While you are pruning, if you notice something that doesn’t look right on the shrub, you should remove it and reclean the blades.

Remember when you trim bushes this will cause them to fill out and have more branches, leaves, and flowers.


Overgrown shrubs with thick stems must be trimmed with loopers or a pruning saw and hand shears for the thinner stems.

When pruning overgrown shrubs, remember not to remove more than one-third of the shrub so it will not go into shock and die.

If more than one-third of the shrub needs to be removed then it should be done over the course of two or three seasons depending on the amount needing to be removed.


Rejuvenation pruning is a method that helps the shrub regenerate all new growth by removing all of the growth of the shrub that is about half a foot to one foot above the ground level.

This type of pruning should not happen every season and should only be used to get an overgrown shrub back under control.

This is the only time when the one-third rule doesn’t apply.


Cluster Of Bushes

Pruning big bushes can be difficult but there are long handle tools as well as tools with handles that extend.

Hand-held gas-powered and electric trimmers can also be used and you can add an extender to reach all around your largest shrubs.


When shaping your shrubs the best advice is to take your time and eventually you will get better and faster.

To trim your shrubs evenly, I recommend using stakes and string when pruning straight lines which will make the process easier until you have an eye for trimming straight lines.

If you want to trim your shrub to a round shape then it is best to use a hand tool such as a secateurs, make a few cuts, and step back to get a full view of the shape.


No, pruning shrubs in the fall may produce late-season growth that won’t have enough time to mature enough for the coming winter temperatures.

Instead of fall pruning, wait until winter to trim shrubs and hedges when they are dormant.

Flowering shrubs are best pruned in the winter to keep from affecting the number of blooms in the spring by removing buds while pruning.


Trimming A Shrub To Look Like A Tree

Yes, it is possible to trim most shrubs to look like a tree. This can be done by choosing a main trunk and trimming all of the branches as the plant gets taller, leaving some branches at the top.

This process will take a few years but this will allow you to underplant around the base of the plant.

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Joel Simon

As a kid, Joel found enjoyment in caring for the many houseplants he grew up with, learning how to transplant them safely, cloning them, and more. At about the age of 10, he wanted to see if he could sprout an orange seed from a store-bought orange and ended up using it as a science experiment in a school project. Throughout the many years of gardening, he has helped many friends and family set up their food and botanical gardens. After years of caring for plants, he was talking with other gardeners and discovering old methods of farming and botanical gardening. Joel has decided to share his knowledge for others to enjoy as he has for many years.

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