How to prune a bird's nest spruce

Written by audrey pannell
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How to prune a bird's nest spruce
A bird's nest spruce has needle-like leaves. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Bird's nest spruce, or Nidiformis, is a member of the Pinaceae family. It is a dwarf multi-stemmed evergreen shrub with green foliage that emerges lime green in the spring. The shrub gets its name from a depression in the centre that makes it look like a bird's nest. It generally forms a compact ball, but it can be pruned into desired shapes. Severe pruning is not needed because the shrub grows slowly. Light pruning is recommended and beneficial, despite its slow growth, because it helps the shrub develop a denser crown and rids it of dead branches.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Gardening gloves
  • Hedge shears
  • Garbage bag

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  1. 1

    Put on gardening gloves.

  2. 2

    Lightly prune the bird's nest spruce with small hedge shears. Do this in late May or early June to form a desired shape and size, making slanting cuts on limbs that grow upward to prevent water from pooling in the cut. Leave at least one live bud on each pruned branch, pruning 1/2 inch above the bud, or the branch will die.

  3. 3

    Lightly prune new growth as it develops, maintaining the shrub's shape. If two leading shoots develop on the top of the spruce, prune back the weaker one to keep the shrub structurally sound.

  4. 4

    Prune out lower branches of an older spruce to open up the canopy.

  5. 5

    Cut off branches identified with disease, pruning back to the nearest living lateral branch or to the main stem. Prune these branches in late winter before diseased spores are released in the spring. Cut off shoots infected with bug invasions. Put the diseased or insect-infected cuttings in a garbage bag and dispose of them.

  6. 6

    Prune away dead or damaged branches, cutting them off flush with the main stem. You can prune dead branches throughout the year as long as the weather is dry. Otherwise, remove them in late May or early June when you do the rest of your pruning.

Tips and warnings

  • When cutting back to a lateral branch, choose one that forms an angle of no more than 45 degrees with the branch being removed. Make certain the branch that you cut back to has a diameter of at least half that of the branch being removed.
  • Do not remove more than one-third the total needle area and do not completely remove the top of the shrub.
  • If pruning diseased branches, disinfect the shears between cuts to avoid spreading the disease.

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