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Knowing the proper way to trim and prune your shrubs starts first with knowing when to trim them. The timing can affect many aspects of your plants health including viability and flowering.

Flowering Trees & Shrubs

Flowering trees & shrubs are probably the most finicky type of plant that will give you a glaring reminder that it was trimmed at an incorrect time. If you trim a flowering shrub at the incorrect time you risk completely removing the buds that produce the next season’s flowers.

The general rule of thumb to live by when pruning flowering shrubs is to do so just after flowering is complete. This guideline will help to ensure a fabulous flower display next season!


Evergreens are completely different as most of them have no true flowers to use a guide. Evergreens can be temperamental — trim them too early and freeze or frost can damage tips… trim them too late and depending on the timing, heat or cold can damage the plant.

When trimming evergreens after the first flush of the year be sure to do so when the plant has adequate moisture and the temperatures are moderate. If you were to trim your evergreen right before a heat wave it is likely that the exposed cut would begin to dry out and the tip die back may occur.

If a late season trimming to clean up summer growth is your goal, do so after temperatures have started to cool. Trimming too early in the fall will allow the plant plenty of time to push out fresh growth which is just what frost and freeze love to destroy. The idea is to trim late enough that the plant will not push lots of new tender growth that won’t harden off, but early enough that the stems have time to do some healing before winter. In Southern California, our weather is tricky and an exact time depends on the year.

The Difference between Trimming & Pruning

Some people mistake trimming for pruning. They are two different things. When you are trimming a plant you are just removing growth on the outer most part of the plant.

Pruning is more technical and can require large portions of plant material to be removed. Pruning on deciduous material should be done in the winter when the plant is dormant. This reduces the amount of stress the plant will incur. Pruning on evergreens is best done in spring and fall. However, on either type of plant, deadwood can be removed at anytime safely, as long as proper techniques are used.

Whether trimming or pruning, a key to remember, you never want to remove more than 1/3 of the plant. Keep these tips for timing in mind and you can continue to enjoy your sculptured plants for years to come!

If you are unsure about if it is the proper time to trim and prune, ask TreeAdvisor! We would love to help.

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