How to Prune Conifer Bushes

Conifers are generally a low maintenance bush that will survive drought and poor soil conditions, as well as extreme heat and extreme cold. Conifers are often ignored when it comes to maintenance, but a little pruning now and again can go a long way toward keeping the plant healthy and looking good. Before pruning any shrub, it is wise to consider why you need to prune it. Conifers, in particular, are sensitive to pruning, so taking too much off the top can result in an unattractive shape that lasts for several years.

Remove any diseased, broken or pest-infested branches at any time of year. For most conifers, this is all the pruning required.

Wait until late winter or early spring to prune your bush. As with most bushes, if they are pruned in the late summer or fall, the new growth may not have enough time to properly harden off before winter.

Consider the cut before making it on a conifer. Conifers are unforgiving, says Bert Cregg in Fine Gardening magazine. "Think twice and prune once," he continues. Make sure you understand why you're making the cut before you make it.

Cut only a conifer's one year growth when pruning. This will help keep the bush to the size and shape you desire. Most conifers are trimmed in an apical form. Keeping this form can require periodic shearing.


Avoid removing more than one-third of a bush in any one growing season.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Michelle Hogan is a writer and the author of 13 books including the 2005 bestselling memoir, "Without a Net: Middle Class and Homeless (With Kids) in America." Hogan studied English at American University and has been writing professionally since 1998. Her work has appeared in "The New York Times," "Redbook," "Family Circle" and many other publications.