Your evergreens, especially conifers (pines, spruce, etc.) have been taking full advantage of our early spring weather conditions. You can tell this by the amount of new growth they are sporting. New growth is the lighter colored, softer needles that appear on the branch tips in spring.
Soon that tender foliage will darken to the tree or shrub’s normal color. The branches will harden and the needles will stiffen. That usually happens in June, although it has been known to extend into July. When it happens, it’s time to prune.r needles that appear on the branch tips in spring.
As with all pruning, evergreen pruning should be done with a specific purpose in mind. That may be to shape or thin the tree or shrub, or to reduce its size or raise its “crown.”
Shrub pruning may be a relatively safe do-it-yourself job, but we don’t recommend it for major tree pruning. Pruning a large pine or spruce tree can be dangerous in a number of ways. First, you will, most likely, have to leave the ground to reach the upper branches. Not a good idea. Second, those needles are sharp, especially if they fall on you, or whip around and hit you. Third, each cut lets more messy sap ooze out and get all over you.
Please wear eye protection, no matter what size evergreen you are pruning. If you are pruning over head, wear a hard hat. And, if you are using power tools, wear ear protection, too.
If you have a taxus (yew) border or foundation planting, pruning and shaping is probably an annual task. I hope this is just maintenance pruning – removing the new growth. If that is the case, don’t wait until the new growth matures. It is much easier to prune when the new growth has finished growing but before it matures (turns color). The soft wood cuts easily and cleanly, and the color differentiation is a good guide for shaping. This year, the time to prune has arrived.
Broadleaf evergreens like rhododendrons and boxwoods should also be pruned in June. They, too, put on new growth in early spring and are ready for pruning right now. Pruning evergreens should follow the same procedures as pruning deciduous trees.
Prune only at a fork. In the case of tight plants like boxwood, cuts can be made just above a leaf’s attachment to the branch. Cuts on looser plants like rhododendrons should be made at a branch crotch or at the base of the offending branch.