When choosing an evergreen for your landscape project, it is always best to select a plant that will not outgrow its designated space, crowding out nearby plants or distorting its own shape without enough room to shine. Proper research can help you choose – you should know the ultimate height, width and growth rate of your selection before committing to what may be one of the more costly additions to your landscape. Always choose naturally slow-growing or dwarf conifers for small spaces, bearing in mind how nearby plants and structures may limit available space over time. Fortunately, just about every genus of evergreen is available in a dwarf variety.
That being said, what if the mistake has already been made? We’ve all made it! It is easy to fall in love with a sweet little plant in the garden center that, within a few years in the ground, looks like it could swallow your house. Fear not, there are ways to rectify the situation with proper pruning.
You will need the right tools to accomplish the job:
- Bypass pruners
- Safety goggles
- Leather gloves
Pruning should begin in the early spring before the plant’s soft new growth hardens off. Take a close look at your evergreen to determine its branching habit. Pine, spruce and fir trees all have layers of branches that are whorled around the trunk. Arborvitae, juniper, yew and false cypress have limbs that are produced randomly along the trunk.
Conifers with a random branching habit are able to grow new limbs from old, foliage-bearing wood. You may prune this type of evergreen back to this older wood to encourage a more compactly branched habit and keep size down, or to create the desired shape. Whorled branching evergreens are pruned differently, however. They have new growth called “candles” at the tip of their branches, and they really do look like candles with lighter coloration. To promote a more densely branched, compact habit, pinch the candles back by up to half their length before the needles harden off. Never cut into the older wood below the candle, as this type of evergreen does not have dormant buds on the stem that will become new growth. Pruning into old wood will leave a hole in your plant and distort its overall appearance.
As always, we are eager to assist you with selecting the proper plant for any landscape project you undertake and to advise you on proper pruning to keep it healthy and beautiful for many years.