Professional gardeners reveal when to trim evergreen bushes to keep plants healthy and thriving

Spring is generally accepted as the best time to prune evergreen shrubs - though there are exceptions to the rule

Evergreen shrubs in a garden border
(Image credit: Getty Images/Jacky Parker Photography)

Evergreen bushes put on a display of foliage throughout the year to bring color and structure to a space. They tend to be low maintenance and not require lots of annual pruning, though it is useful to know the best time to trim, for when your evergreen bushes need some attention.

It is not a one-size-fits-all approach and different evergreen shrubs are best trimmed at different times of year. It is often the case that spring is the right time, however there are types that are ideally cut in the summer.

If you find yourself wondering when to trim evergreen bushes, then discover some advice from highly-experienced professional gardeners to give you the confidence to head out and prune at the right time of year to keep your evergreens healthy.

Pruning an evergreen boxwood with shears

Always trim evergreen bushes with sharp and clean tools

(Image credit: Getty Images/fotokostic)

Why is it important to know the best time to trim evergreen bushes?

It is vital to do any pruning at the proper time. Trimming evergreens at the wrong time of year would be a pruning mistake that brings with it several potential problems. 

It can stress the plant, cause stunted growth and foliage loss, leave the bush susceptible to diseases, or even reduce its cold hardiness. So, bearing all that in mind, when is the right time to prune evergreen bushes?

Trimming an evergreen camellia with pruning shears

Not all evergreen bushes should be trimmed at the same time

(Image credit: Future)

When to cut back evergreen shrubs and bushes

If you are landscaping with evergreens, there are a huge range of plants out there to choose from. Evergreen bushes and shrubs are some of the prettiest evergreen plants, coming in a variety of shapes, sizes, and foliage types. 

While evergreen bushes come in such a range, they are not all pruned at the same time of year. Tim Marshall, head gardener at Raby Castle, says that it is ‘important to consider the specific species and their unique growth habits’ before heading out with the tools to prune.

He adds: ‘Generally, early spring and late summer to early fall are considered the best times for trimming. 

‘Trimming in early spring helps remove any winter damage, dead or diseased branches, and stimulates new growth, resulting in a healthier and more vigorous plant. Late summer to early fall trimming helps maintain the shape and size of the bush before winter arrives.’

The best time to prune in spring is after the last frosts for your region and before the plant starts growing again. While spring tends to be the general rule, there are, of course, some notable exceptions to this, including pruning spring-flowering evergreen shrubs such as rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias. These tend to not require lots of pruning, but any trimming to reduce their size should be done after they have finished flowering.

Monique Gudgeon, horticulturist at Sculpture by the Lakes, also advises how yew and box - two evergreens that are some of the best plants for topiary - can also be trimmed during the summer months. 

She says: ‘Contrary to the early spring rule, pruning yew hedges should be done in mid-to-late summer when new growth has finished. This also gives a chance for exposed cuts to heal before fall and winter wet and cold sets in. Box hedging is traditionally pruned twice, once in late spring and then again in late summer. ‘

While it is best to stick to trimming during the ideal times of year, do not be deterred from removing dead, damaged, or diseased sections you spot from evergreen bushes at any time of year for the overall health of the plant.

Tim Marshall
Tim Marshall

Tim Marshall is the head gardener of Raby Castle. He has had a gardening career which spans nearly three decades and has taken him all over the world.

Trimming an evergreen yew hedge

Evergreen yew bushes and hedges are best trimmed in summer

(Image credit: Future)

When to trim overgrown evergreen bushes

Many evergreen bushes do not need a lot of regular trimming, bar reducing their size or managing them if they are planted as hedging plants. Overgrown or neglected evergreens can be trimmed to reduce their size and control them. 

It is best to stick to pruning overgrown evergreen bushes in spring, after the risk of frost has passed. However, do check whether the evergreen bush you are planning to tackle can handle hard pruning. It may be best to do the trimming in stages, rather than trying to cut the shrub back very hard. 

Monique Gudgeon says: ‘Yew, for example, can be cut back hard, as can Aucuba and Escallonia. However, others need to be handled more gently and a gradual reduction and clearing out needs to be done over several years, gently taking out and cutting back by a quarter each time until you’ve reached a better height and spread.’

Monique Gudgeon
Monique Gudgeon

Monique Gudgeon is the director and co-owner of Sculpture by the Lakes. Monique moved away from a career in PR, turning her attention to landscape gardening and has spent years developing her love of horticulture, earning the unique garden a Botanic Garden accreditation in 2023.


Can you trim evergreen bushes in the winter?

It is not recommended to trim evergreen bushes during the winter months. Pruning during the winter leaves them susceptible to the cold as evergreens do not have a supply of food in their roots during the colder period. 

As it is going to be unable to regrow foliage after being trimmed in winter, the bush may struggle to produce enough supplies to continue growing healthily until the temperatures improve in spring.

Can you trim evergreen bushes in the summer?

There are evergreen bushes that can be trimmed in the summer, including spring flowering shrubs, yew and boxwood bushes. Not all evergreen shrubs will respond well to summer pruning, so it is advised to check before doing any trimming. 

Josh Novell, garden expert and director of Polhill, warns: ‘Trimming at the wrong time, like during the active growing season, can stress the plant and hinder its ability to recover. It may lead to stunted growth, susceptibility to diseases, or even cause excessive foliage loss if done improperly.

Can you trim evergreen bushes in the fall?

Evergreens are best pruned in spring, but many can be trimmed in late summer to early fall. Just do not trim too late into fall, as this will encourage the bush to put on a flush of new growth that will be susceptible to winter damage and this can reduce the overall cold hardiness of the bush. 

Always use clean and sharp pruning shears when trimming evergreen bushes to make clean cuts and prevent the spread of disease. After you have finished cutting, it is a good time to think about fertilizing evergreens and applying a layer of organic mulch around the base of the plant.

Drew Swainston
Content Editor

Drew’s passion for gardening started with growing vegetables and salad in raised beds in a small urban terrace garden. He has gone on to work as a professional gardener in historic gardens across the UK and also specialise as a kitchen gardener growing vegetables, fruit, herbs, and cut flowers. That passion for growing extends to being an allotmenteer, garden blogger, and producing how-to gardening guides for websites. Drew was shortlisted in the New Talent of the Year award at the 2023 Garden Media Guild Awards.