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When is the right time to trim shrubs

“I want to trim the scrubbery.” A customer requested. We looked at the foundation plants along the front of their building and “scrubbery” was a good description. Small wiry bushes that were out of control. Whether you have “scrubbery” or shrubbery, today we are going to talk about what time of year is the best time to trim them to get them in shape.

Trimming Defined

Trimming and pruning are two different things. We will discuss pruning in a future article, but for this article, when we use the word trimming, we are talking about getting out the hedge trimmers and giving your shrubs a haircut. Trimming serves the purpose of maintaining a neat appearance, but not necessarily a totally natural one. If you want your shrubs to maintain a completely natural appearance, you would need to selectively prune. Trimming on the other hand, will keep your shrubs in a generally tight shape, such as round, squared, conical or “natural”. When we are talking about trimming with hedge trimmers, we are talking about trimming young, green parts of the plant with the purpose of maintaining a shaped plant.

When to Trim

Generally, you can trim non-flowering shrubs whenever they need it. Trimming two to three times a year is typically enough to maintain most shrubs and hedges.

When considering timing, there are some guidelines to consider.


Spring is a time when trimming the shrubs can feel like a loosing battle because the plant is focusing so much effort into new growth. You can trim the shrubbery once, and come back out in a couple weeks and it look like you never touched them. But hey, maybe you are up for the challenge, and you decide you are going to trim again, …and again, …and again in the spring. If so, keep in mind from a horticultural standpoint, trimming does put some stress on the plants. During the spring, the plant is focusing its energies on growth, and when you trim, the plant will now also need some resources to heal the small cuts made by trimming. Not that you can’t do it, but if you decide to go the route of trimming several times in spring, proceed with some caution and be attentive to the overall health of the plant year over year. One option is to wait a little later in the spring and just prune them once during this time.


Summer is a good time to trim most non-flowering shrubs. By this time, if you haven’t trimmed them yet, they will be needing a haircut for sure. By summer, the heavy spring growth is beginning to wind down, and your efforts here will be longer lasting. My suggestion after you are finished with your back breaking, shoulder burning, sweaty, “think I’m going to die from heat exhaustion” shrub trimming workout; kick up your heels, grab a lemonade and observe your fine handy work.


Early fall is another good time to trim shrubs. Even if you have pruned them a couple times earlier in the year, there is often a need to prune again in early fall. And it is a good time to go for it. Late fall however, isn’t as ideal as the plant needs time to heal from the cuts before winter to avoid winter injury.


If you need to prune in winter, prune as close to spring as you are able. This will limit the amount of time cuts will remain unhealed. Once the spring comes, the plant will heal itself.

One quick note about flowering shrubs. The appropriate time to trim or prune will vary based on when the specific shrubs bloom. With azaleas for instance, trimming in the fall will cut off much of next year’s blooms. After they have finished blooming, the sooner the better when it comes to trimming azaleas.

Overall, trimming with hedge trimmers can be an important tool in your arsenal when it comes to maintaining your landscape. Remember that trimming is reserved to the new, green growth part of the plants, and pruning for the woody parts. Trimming is definitely hard work, but it can be an effective and efficient way to keep your shrubbery looking good.


Keep on growing!


Genesis 2:15

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