I made you a movie about trimming shrubs. Enjoy!
When pruning shrubs in your landscape it’s important to understand a few things.
- It really makes no difference when you prune most plants. The plants flat out don’t care and the sooner you prune them, if they need it, the sooner they can be on their way to growing correctly, as they should.
- You need a good set of pruning shears. Me? I like manual or hand held pruning shears. I don’t have to fight with a cord, I don’t need access to electricity and I have much more control when pruning.
- Good pruning shears are designed with an angle. The handles are at let’s say, maybe a 20 degree angle to the blades. That way when you flip them over you can easily reach areas that you are just plain awkward with electric shears.
- When pruning shrubs it’s really important that when you trim down the side of the shrub you never create a negative angle. In other words, the shrub should flare out just a little bit so it’s always just a smidgen wider at the bottom than the top. Why? Because the entire plant needs to receive sunlight. I show you more about this in the movie.
So I made you a movie about trimming shrubs. In the movie I mention the brand name of the hedge shears that I am using. The brand name is Okatsune. They are Japanese made. So I promised to do a little research and found out why I like them so much. Amazon has them listed at $115.00 a pair. Obviously I believe in buying really good tools.
Couple of years ago I visited a big box store and pick up a pair of hedge shears and they came with a free pair of hand pruning shears. Not good at all, I refuse to use them. They are terrible.
Questions, comments, mean things to say? Post them below and I’ll respond.
Hey Mike, thank you for the pruning video, it was very helpful. I have Nandeina Bamboo Bush’s all the way around my house. They grow very fast and are very hard to trim. I don’t like them to get taller than my porch which in some places is 5 ft. Tall. What is the best time to trim them? If I let them get really tall they have red berries in the winter and tend to lay towards the ground because of heaviness. And what should I sharpen my shears with?
I’d say prune them when they need it. And it might be easier to prune hard this fall, then next year prune them earlier when the new growth is still soft.
Ben Samuel says
Thank you for your video on pruning shrubs. This is very helpful. Could you also provide insights into thinning out the plants, so that these plants are not leaf heavy on the outside? I have a few plants that are pruned to a box shape (probably boxwood, and some holly) that look leaf heavy on the outside. Whenever any stems or branches get damaged and fall off, you can see a bare inside (no leaves) with twisty branches!
That’s a tough situation. You can selectively remove a few branches at a time, that’s about all I can offer.
Hi Mike, I have green shrubs lining the walkway up to my house. Don’t know what they’re called. I let them get too big, and when I trimmed them, the green foliage was cut back and now they’re mostly just brown sticks which look ugly. Apparently when you cut off the green it never comes back. I didn’t know that! Is there anything I can do other than pull them out? I’m trying to learn, but made a huge mistake! Thank you! Laura
Chances are they’ll put on new growth and some of them will probably be awesome in a year or two. Not much you can do but wait, or yank them out. That kind of pruning is better done in the late fall.
Kate Connell says
Hi Mike, I have a healthy 20-yr old upright Japanese holly which has gotten huge, about 9-10 ft tall and 6 feet around. I trim/shape it every summer, but now I would like to reduce it in size. How hard can I cut it back without killing it? And when is the best time? I’m in zone 5, Thank you.
In the winter, after Thanksgiving you can cut it back as much as you want and it should be fine. I said should be, I can never guarantee what might happen with plants.
Kate Connell says
Thank you so much! Exactly what I needed to know.
Kate Connell says
Hi Mike, Wanted to follow up and let you know that I did exactly as you advised. Cut it back very hard right around Dec. 1, Now, July 1, it is covered with healthy new growth. Looks great! Thank you!
You are welcome, nice job!
Ron Wood says
Japaness plum trees. How and do i prune them?
Tough to say without seeing and I’m not sure what a Japanese plum is. But I will say this, any pruning is better than none.
I love this guy! Mike you are so wonderful to share your expertise with us! Thanks so much and God bless!
You are welcome.
Hi Mike! Question! Can I reduce the size of an Heatherbun Cypress prior to transplanting it?
Thanks Peter Nash. NC.
I’m sure can but if you remove too much the plant will be completely bare and that’s not good with an evergreen. Light pruning is probably a better option.
Thanks so much for your nice website.
I have some question :
1- what is the best bed for Rose cutting?
2- what is the best temperature for rooting?
3- and finally what is the best time for taking of Rose cutting?
I will be glad to receive your kind reply
For rooting roses I’d use coarse sand or well drained potting mix. The ideal soil temp for rooting cuttings is around 70 degrees F. Best time to do them is 6 weeks after they start to leaf out in the spring. In other words, you want soft wood, not hardwood. https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2015/01/easy-summertime-plant-propagation-techniques-can-home/
Gerry Kenney says
Mike I live in Concord, NC and have 2 Knockout Rose Bushes and they really need to be cut back. Can I cut them back now in the first week of October without damaging them for their next blooming?
Yes you can.
Mike, can I cut my 10 year old sand cherry back hard this fall? I don’t want to kill it but it just seems a little unhealthy. Pretty but thin.
Wait until dormant then trim back. But look at the stems for holes, older plants do get peach tree borer which makes them really thin.
If we have never trimmed it back real far will we still be able to do this? We shape them ( cut off 6-8 inches) off of the outer edges of the shrub a couple of times each year. If we cut them back hard (to about 2 foot) will they still get new growth??
If do the hard trimming when they are dormant they should bounce back nicely. In a perfect world you should selectively remove 1/3 this year, 1/3 next year then the final third the following year. Have I ever done that? No.
I enjoyed your video on shrub pruning. Would you please post a link to the Okatsune pruning shear? There are several to choose from, one has 6 in blade 20 in overall,7 in blade 21 overall, 7 5/8 in blade 22 in overall model 7744ai, or 8 in blade 30.7 overall.
I think I measured mine at 7″ and reported it here in the comments. Should be here.
Grant Hartman says
Mike, My Hort Agent discourages pruning shrubs to look like meat balls. He suggests trying to
obtain a natural look.
I prune out one third of the oldest vertical trunks each year. I have been successfully
picking blueberries each year from plants that are now 35 years old.
Some plants just need to be contained. Everything in the landscape can’t look natural for long before it becomes unsightly.
Mike what type of oil do you use to lubricate your tools like your hedge shears ?
Just WD 40.
Mike B says
Mike have you been watching My Big Fat Greek Wedding too much?
What is wrong with you? Contribute something positive or don’t contribute anything at all.
P. Each says
I agree with Ayn, absolutely.
I just found this site, and I am very impressed with Mike’s no nonsense approach to getting things done. I appreciate the time he has put into this, and thank-you.
To the OP, you might find you are happier if you were less critical, and more grateful. Seriously.
Thank you for your kind words. All I can share is what I know and what I do. I’ve been at this since about 1973, working at it everyday in one form or another. Practical experience I have. Ironically I don’ have any formal knowledge in this, no book learning. But I’ve written four books and I doubt that my critics can say that.
I’ve been reading your newsletter for several years now and I thank you for your the information that you give. I’ve never written to you but this topic is right up my alley. I have been living in a rental house for about 6 years. There are five shrubs lined up in front of my house. I’ve trimmed them several times and they have grown back nicely. They have dark wax-y leaves and small white flowers that smell good and the butterflies love them. They are evergreen and this winter-early spring, they looked like they caught some kind of blite and the leaves were turning yellow with very little new growth. I decided not to trim them to see if their leaves would grow back. They did but now their very tall and I’m afraid if I trim them now I’ll kill them. Should I feed them before I trim or should I only trim a little? What’s your advice? Thanks and have a good one!
I wouldn’t feed them, I never fertilize the plants in my landscape. As long as you leave plenty of leaves when trim them they’ll be fine, or trim them in the fall when dormant.
Colleen Johnson says
Hello Mike, I watched the shrub trimming video. It was very helpful, so thanks for making it. You mentioned using the Okatsune pruning shears and I immediately went to both eBay and Amazon to check them out. Could you please post the model of your shears. The full length as well as blade length/size. Both websites had numerous choices and it was definitely overwhelming. I’ll look for your response. Thanks for all you do.
I post that info in the comments in another response, you’ll find it there.
M. J. says
Love when loropetalums drape rather than being shaped into a regular ball, much the way I prefer azaleas with a natural-looking effect, I think there’s a trick to pruning them, but I couldn’t find any tips in your search field. Currently, I use small pruners like your Corona and go branch by branch…it’s really time consuming. Any ideas?
Probably no trick, prune them and then let them flush out and they will return to their natural form which is always best.
I have always been told to prune Azaleas after they bloom and not prune later because you would be cutting off the buds for next year. My Azaleas have really grown and I’m so wanting to get out there and prune them, but I want them to bloom good next year. Will you tell me what to do please? Thank you
Me? I’d prune them right now and they still have time to set flower buds for next year. If they need pruning, they really should be pruned regardless.
Thank you so much for responding. I love all your great information
Barbara Dyjak says
I have a beautiful Weeping Japanese Maple desperately in need of pruning/shaping. A while back, a branch was broken, and the shape of the tree was spoiled. When I tried to trim branches, they just fanned out with unwanted new growth, which is green, not red. I am now gun shy, afraid to completely ruin the shape of the tree. Are any tutorials available on the proper way to prune or shape a Japanese Maple?
Barbara, just use the search box on this site and type in Japanese maple pruning, there are a couple of pages. But I fear that maybe your tree has growth coming from the root stock which is a different issue. See this http://japanesemaplelovers.com/one-finger-pruning/
Barbara Dyjak says
Thank you so much for your reply. I couldn’t get back to this sooner. I can’t wait to check these out! I wish I could send you a picture, you may never have seen anything like this tree! 😀
Mike, I believe those are Okatsune shears. They are pricey but if taken proper care of will remain very sharp for a lifetime of use. Highly recommend these! You can get them from Amazon, and even EBay!
That is correct, wonderful shears.
Joe T says
Have a Japanese red maple that is losing lots of growth. Top branches are not leafing at all. Possible wind burn or sun burn.(?) I am in zone 6, so we did get some bad winters.
What do you suggest? Cut off the branches? Do it now or wait for dormancy? Maybe something else.
I remember you showed a video where Dustin really whacked a Japanese red maple and it really came back nice and full. But I don’t remember when he did it.
Without a doubt remove those dead branches, doesn’t matter when, the sooner the better.
Have you found the link to purchase the shears ?
Amazon has them I believe, others suggested Ebay. Details here in the comments.
Just wanted to say thanks and I appreciate you for all the great info you share !
Patricia Lanza says
Mike, This was a really good demo on pruning shurbs. The switching angles for the bottom was the real money shot. Thanks so much for the info and keep up the good work. In the day and age of video yours is the one I watch.
Thank you Patricia, I appreciate that.
I have a blueberry bush that is getting to tall and I would like to trim this. The only trouble is that all the leaves are on the top 15 percent of the bush which is now 4 foot tall. Can I prune this and when?
Wait and trim it as you desire in the fall/winter when it’s dormant.
Lauren, here in Florida I had hibiscus shrubs that were just like your blueberry bushes. Spindly, thin looking and not attractive at all. With leaves mostly on the tops and very few flowers. I doubt the previous owners had ever trimmed them properly.
I cut them all back to about 18″ from the ground back in February and you ought to see how they have filled in now! They’ve grown about 20″ already and are filled with flowers. Pruning really works!
When and how do I trim a lemon tree. It’s growing wide, had one lemon last year and guess I planted it about 3 years ago.
Remove any branches growing toward the center of the tree or any branches that cross, one has to be removed. Trim the top so it doesn’t get too tall or wide.
Whats the best way to propagate butterfly bush cuttings and the best pruning time mike?
Now is a good time to do the cuttings, in the summer. Pruning? Probably fall unless they have grown too large. https://mikesbackyardnursery.com/2015/01/easy-summertime-plant-propagation-techniques-can-home/
Mike Bronosky says
Meant to ask the model number or blade and handle length
Overall length of the blades on mine is about 9″. The actual part that does the cuttings is a little over 7″. So I’m not sure what size they’d call that.
John Duffy says
Mike, I totally agree with you about buying QUALITY tools. Good tools, properly cared for will last well through your grand kids. An investment indeed.
Love your videos
Hey Mike, Thanks for the video! Question about Lilac bushes. I have some that are pretty old and woody. How much can I trim them and not kill them? Thanks in advance.
You can trim them quite a bit but you have to leave plenty of leaves so the plant can continue to do what it needs to do to stay alive. If you wait and trim when dormant, you could cut it back harder.
Noma Roselle says
Yes no question — this was very helpful and I look forward to your link on buying these shears. I do trim with shears but never thought of reversing to cut the bottom of bush. Looking for post where I can buy the shear you use until then I’ll try mine.