Pruning Evergreen Euonymus: How To Trim Euonymus Japonicus

Broadleaf Evergreen Euonymus Shrubs
(Image credit: liuyushan)

Euonymus plants are broadleaf shrubs and very popular with gardeners. In some regions, more hedges use this shrub than any other. You can find deciduous euonymus with brilliant fall color, but for year-round privacy, evergreen euonymus may be preferable.

Pruning evergreen euonymus is not an annual event. However, it is sometimes necessary. Read on for information about how to cut back euonymus.

Pruning Evergreen Euonymus

Evergreen euonymus are hardy shrubs that come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and colors. Evergreen euonymus plants are easy to grow, drought tolerant, and require little maintenance. This includes pruning evergreen euonymus, a task that only needs to be undertaken to control the shrub’s size or in the case of an overgrown plant.

If you are pruning to control size or to slightly reshape the bush, the key is to go slowly, branch by branch. Note the branch structure and make all cuts in harmony with it. Always prune an evergreen euonymus branch back to a healthy bud that points in the direction where new growth would be appreciated. 

How to Cut Back Euonymus

When you are cutting back an evergreen euonymus, put aside your fear of killing it. Unless you cut off all the green shoots on a branch, you will not do irreparable harm. That’s because broadleaf evergreens, including evergreen euonymus, have latent buds along their branches. These buds can become growing buds whenever stimulated into growth by branch trimming just above them. Narrowleaf evergreen do not have these specialized buds which makes them more difficult to cut. 

If you are wondering how to cut back euonymus shrubs, there are two typical types of pruning. There are tip pruning and thinning, both best undertaken early in spring. Tip pruning is a matter of removing a few inches of stem tips, branch by branch. It produces a dense, nicely shaped shrub. Thinning, on the other hand, is accomplished by taking out branches that are unattractive, older branches or weaker ones. They are cut back to a lateral branch to encourage strong growth. 

Pruning Euonymus Hedges

Pruning euonymus hedges is usually done by shearing. Some gardeners like to prune individual shrubs into squares or other shapes. However, evergreen shrubs look best and are healthiest when their natural shape is retained. These shrubs should only be sheared if used in formal hedges.

If the hedge is overgrown, start by cutting the tallest branches with a hand clipper, reducing them to much smaller than the ultimate size you want. Cut each tall branch or stem to a different height so that the hedge looks more natural and there are openings in the hedge for light and air to enter.

Some species of evergreen euonymus accept more severe pruning than others. For example, you can get away with hard pruning euonymus japonicus. This dense evergreen shrub makes a good hedge.

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.