How Far Back Can You Trim Evergreen Shrubs?

How far back can you trim evergreen shrubs? If you ask 10 gardeners, you’ll likely get 10 answers. In this post, Frady Tree Care Specialists, your team for expert shrub care in Charlotte, NC, gives a definitive guide to pruning evergreens.

Why Prune Pines and Other Evergreens? 

You will generally engage in light pruning once a year. This is to remove dead branches, help the shrub maintain a pleasing natural shape, and keep the plant healthy. 

When To Prune  

You should trim your evergreens during their slow-growing period. This is generally late in winter or early in spring. This is, however, species-dependent, so it’s critical to check the recommendations for your shrub. 

You should always give the new growth enough time to harden before winter. If you don’t, you’ll see a distinct dead zone developing as the new branches die off. The exception is when it comes to damaged or diseased branches, as you should remove those as soon as possible. 

How Far Back Can You Trim Evergreen Shrubs?

The general answer to, “How far back can you trim evergreen shrubs and trees?” is that you should rather cut the branch back to the trunk than leave a stump. As with all pruning, you should never remove more than a third of the branches at any one time. 

From there, it depends on the species. Here are some guidelines. 


Trimming extra growth is key to keeping boxwood healthy. You’ll need to prune about one-third of this plant’s growth every year; keep an eye out for overgrowth and pay attention to the plant’s interior to address problems.


You’ll want to keep rhododendron pruning to a minimum. If you do prune your plant, then do so in early spring, and only cut off a small amount.


Most people think of pines as trees, but some can be classified as shrubs, as well. Trim these plants in early spring after the candles grow but before the needles open. Cut the candles back to a half or third to encourage bushing out. Again, keep the tips of branches as intact as possible. 


With these plants, you can encourage bushing out by removing the bud at the tip of the branch. You can also cut back up to half of the new growth. 

Juniper and Arborvitae 

These hardy species can handle shearing well. However, you must be careful about them becoming too dense, or you get a dead zone inside. You must leave some green growth on each branch you wish to keep, as any that you cut back completely won’t grow again. 


Yews produce their growing buds all along the branches, so you can cut them back as far as you like. You can prune them any time of the year, but spring is the optimal time. 


Cypresses seldom need much pruning and respond to shearing well. You can shape cypress shrubs but should cut the branches to the joint when doing so. Cypresses develop interesting shapes if you leave them to their own devices anyway. 

Are you still unsure of how to continue? Then maybe it’s time to call in the professionals. Speak to our team for a proper pruning strategy using the right techniques. 

Contact Our Team For Expert Advice

Now that you can answer, “How far back can you trim evergreen shrubs?” are there other questions you want answers to? Are you looking for advice on how to save dying shrubs or other garden issues? 

Call Frady Tree Care Specialists at (704) 644-2516 for expert advice in Charlotte, NC, and the surrounding areas.  


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.


Charlotte Office

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

Lexington Office

402 W. 4th Avenue,    Lexington, NC 27292
Phone : (336) 236-1006

Salisbury Office

1460 Henderson Grove Church Rd,
Salisbury, NC 28147
Phone : (704) 644-2516

Winston-Salem Office

1035 Shalimar Drive.      Winston-Salem, NC 27107
Phone : (336) 236-1006

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