Managing Large Shrubs – Learn How To Trim An Overgrown Shrub

Pruning Clippers Trimming A Shrub Branch
shrub pruning
(Image credit: joebelanger)

Shrubs need trimming every few years. Those that don’t get the regular maintenance pruning they need become leggy and overgrown. If you move into a new home and find the backyard filled with badly overgrown shrubs, it’s time to learn about rejuvenating shrubs with pruning. Read on for information about managing large shrubs and tips on how to trim an overgrown shrub.

What to Do with Overgrown Shrubs

Large shrubs started out as small shrubs. If they didn’t get the maintenance pruning they needed, they may now appear as overgrown masses of crossing branches. What to do with overgrown shrubs? Before you hire someone to rip those shrubs out, consider cutting them back to rejuvenate them.

How to Trim an Overgrown Shrub

Overgrown shrub pruning, also called renewal or rejuvenation pruning, involves cutting out the oldest and largest branches at ground level. Using pruners or a pruning saw, you’ll cut each of the heaviest stems as close to the ground as possible. This method of managing large shrubs stimulates the plant to produce new growth just below the pruning cut, close to the ground. If you just trim the tops of the shrubs, they will grow even leggier and taller. Another option is to prune an overgrown, neglected shrub into a small tree. This is particularly effective if many of the branches are not in good condition. Simply prune out all stems except one, then remove lower branches on that stem to create a trunk and canopy.

When to Tackle Overgrown Shrub Pruning

Although it’s easy to focus on how to trim an overgrown shrub, when to prune is equally important. Badly overgrown shrubs respond well to pruning in late winter/early spring, just before new leaves appear. Managing large shrubs isn’t done overnight. Instead, prune neglected, overgrown shrubs over three years. Each year, take out a third of the heaviest stems to start new growth development. Once you have completed renovation by overgrown shrub pruning, take the time every year to remove two or three of the older branches. Managing large shrubs this way keeps them attractive, vigorous, and healthy.

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.