How to Prune Overgrown Evergreen Hedges

Updated February 21, 2017

In nature, trees and hedges are cut back during storms, because of lack of sunlight and for a variety of other reasons. In a well-cared-for garden, however, plants may never have to face these stresses and can grow wild and uncontrolled without proper pruning. If your evergreen hedges have grown unsightly or are taking over your garden or lawn because you have failed to prune them, proper technique and careful cutting can control the branches while keeping the plant healthy and growing.

Prune evergreens in early spring, before new growth begins. This early pruning will help to encourage healthy new growth in the upcoming growing season.

Trim away any dead or damaged branches from the hedge. Use sharp pruning shears or cutters to make clean cuts through the branches. Avoid tearing the bark at all points during the pruning process, as this can cause infection in the plant.

Cut each branch back by about one-third of its current length. As you cut, trim the branches on the top shorter than those on the bottom, so that the upper branches do not block sunlight from the lower branches.

Perform smaller maintenance cuts to train your hedge or a specific shape, if necessary. After the bloom, in late summer or early fall, inspect the hedge and trim away wild or loose branches that do not fit your design style. Repeat this basic maintenance trimming each spring and fall to maintain the hedge.


Remove dead or damaged branches at any time of year to prevent infection or further damage. If your hedge is too far out of control or simple pruning, cut the entire plant back to 1 inch below your desired hedge height. Maintain a regular pruning or shaping schedule to control the hedge in the future. If you cut into diseased areas or those infested with insects, sanitise your cutters in vinegar or hot, soapy water before performing any more cuts, to avoid spreading the infection.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp pruning shears
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About the Author

Samantha Volz has been involved in journalistic and informative writing for over eight years. She holds a bachelor's degree in English literature from Lycoming College, Williamsport, Pennsylvania, with a minor in European history. In college she was editor-in-chief of the student newspaper and completed a professional internship with the "Williamsport Sun-Gazette," serving as a full-time reporter. She resides in Horsham, Pennsylvania.