Can You Trim Shrubs in Summer?

Can you trim shrubs in summer? Among gardeners, there are some definite opinions about pruning trees and shrubs. Many will tell you to only cut back an overgrown shrub in winter. Others will say the proper time depends on the circumstances. 

In this article, Frady Tree Care Specialists, your source for expert shrub care in Charlotte, NC, explains more about this sometimes controversial topic. 

When Is the Best Time of Year to Use Your Pruning Shears?

The answer depends on what type of plant you have, the types of cuts you’ll perform, and why you are trimming. Here are some simple guidelines.

To Maintain a Natural Shape

If you want to trim to achieve a more natural shape, it’s usually better to wait until winter. This is when the shrubs are dormant with few, if any, leaves. It also makes it easy to see which branches are structural and which cuts to make. You will perform these cuts late in winter, about six to eight weeks before the weather turns.

To Remove Damage or Disease

Can you trim shrubs in summer because of damage or disease? You can, and should do so to remove the dead wood and fight the infection. The primary reason that arborists suggest winter trimming is because there are fewer diseases in the air. This becomes meaningless if your shrub is patient zero.

The same is true if you have a broken branch, especially if it is holding on by a thread. The sick limb may still draw resources but will never recover, so it’s best to remove it. 

Shrubs That Bloom in Spring

The exception to the rule about pruning in late winter is when your shrubs bloom in the springtime. Instead, wait until it finishes flowering and then make the snip. Examples of these shrubs include:

  • Camellias
  • Forsythia
  • Quince
  • Azaleas
  • Lilac

These shrubs, in particular, bud on old wood rather than new growth. By removing this wood early, you’ll get fewer blossoms later. If, however, the bush looks terribly overgrown, it may be worth the sacrifice of one year’s flowers to restore order.

What About Evergreens?

Evergreens can be confusing and sometimes even annoying. You’re better off pruning juniper, yew, and boxwood in the early spring before they start shooting. Otherwise, wait until the middle of summer when they slow their growth because of the heat. 

To make things confusing, you can only prune pines in spring because this is when they put out new growth. You have to cut these small sections rather than the branch, or the branch won’t form new growth.

When Do I Prune Formal Hedges?

Formal hedges are another tricky prospect because you want them to keep their shape. Here you simply wait until they start growing and snip to keep them in line. If you’re more brutal and use a hedge trimmer, let the new growth establish itself a little into spring. You can do so again in about six or eight weeks.

When to Avoid Late Pruning 

In North Carolina, it’s advisable to be more careful when trimming frost-tender plants. Try and do so before mid-August, or the shrub may send out new growth that will die when the frosts come.

Ask the Pros

Pruning shrubs at any time of the year is possible with the right expertise. Consider calling a pro for the proper advice, at least for the first year or two.

Contact Us for Advice

Do you need help with mulching around shrubs or trimming them? Frady Tree Care Specialists assists with all manner of questions, including, “Can you trim shrubs in summer?” Dial 704-644-2516 for more information.


Frady Tree Care has the most reliable and professional tree services in the Charlotte, Winston-Salem, Kernersville, Clemmons & High Point, NC areas! Our team is a third-generation certified and fully-insured arboriculture firm. With more than 100 years of combined experience, we are the tree service experts you can trust.


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8640 Charlotte University City Blvd.  Suite A3-241        Charlotte, NC 28213
Phone : (704) 644-2516

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1460 Henderson Grove Church Rd,
Salisbury, NC 28147
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