Shrub Pruning: What You Should Know & Why Trimming Is Essential

Flowers on pruned shrubs trimmed

Do you own shrubs? If you do, it’s likely you know that, just like trees, shrubs add liveliness to landscapes and can be used in a variety of ways.

Shrubs may:

  • Be used as decorative borders
  • Be used as a living fence
  • Add personality to homes

To enjoy their benefits long-term, however, it’s important to understand the significance of routine pruning and trimming technique. If done incorrectly, it can be detrimental to their health.

What is Shrub Pruning?

First of all, what is pruning? Pruning (“trimming”) cuts away at dead or unwanted branches of the plant. A form of preventative care, pruning boosts protection against diseases or pests before they attack.

Shrub pruning is important for a variety of reasons.

  1. Pruning supports shrub health. Trimming removes damaged or rubbing branches as well as branch stubs from the shrub. 
  2. Pruning maintains the function of the shrub. Trimming encourages development on the shrub such as flower or fruit growth. 
  3. Pruning improves the general appearance of the shrub. Trimming attains the natural shape, size, and aesthetic of shrubs.
  4. Pruning protects the shrub’s surroundings (such as your family). Trimming removes branches from the shrub that may be blocking the doors to your home.

When is the best time to prune your shrubs? Find out here.

Pruning vs Shearing: Is There a Difference?

It’s easy to think “Pruning and shearing both involve trimming, so they must be the same.” In actuality, however, there are significant differences.


  • Uses manual, powered shears
  • Only removes newer growth while keeping the older, unhealthy plant
  • Provides artificial appearance
  • Stresses shrubs
  • Best for formal landscapes


  • Uses hand pruners
  • Removes current and older growth, including the unhealthy plant  
  • Provides natural appearance
  • Keeps shrubs healthy
  • Best for most landscapes

A notable feature of shrub pruning is that the technique allows for selective thinning. This method of trimming targets growth inside the plant and allows it to maintain appropriate size, shape, and health.

sheared shrubs trimmed
Sheared shrubs on a local property

Can I Trim My Shrubs Myself?

While pruning is important, as with everything, there is a wrong way to go about it. And while it may seem easy, improper trimming technique can in fact be harmful.  

A common issue that results from improper pruning is too much pruning. Overpruned shrubs require more maintenance and monitoring. This may include intensive fertilization or watering practices.

This is because trimming a shrub too much can:

  • Lead to a loss in essential nutrients
  • Increase susceptibility to diseases and pests due to stress
Over pruned shrubs on property trimmed
Overpruned shrubs on a local property

While overpruning won’t kill shrubs, it can severely impact their long-term health. This makes it crucial to avoid trimming shrubs yourself.

Certified Arborists will be able to recognize and provide the balance between physiological needs your shrubs have and the visual appearance you’re after.  

You can meet with one of our Certified Arborists by booking an appointment online.

Shrub owners and enthusiasts: Now that you know more about pruning, stay tuned for next week’s article on shrub growth regulators.

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