Small evergreen trees and shrubs don't require a lot of ongoing maintenance, but there is one maintenance task you don't want to overlook. Regular annual pruning is a must if you want the trees to retain their symmetrical form and healthy growth habits. Shrubs, in particular, must be trimmed and shaped, otherwise weak growth patterns can result in damaged branches and an unsightly form.
Timing Is Everything
Although evergreens don't drop their needles or leaves, they do still experience a season of dormancy or semi-dormancy in the winter months. Growth typically comes to a stop, and internal functions slow. Pruning is less likely to cause damage to an evergreen when it is done during the dormant period, so plan to prune your trees and shrubs at any time from mid- to late-winter. A nice day when temperatures are above freezing is the perfect time to plan to prune. Light tree trimming can be done year around, but save major pruning for winter dormancy.
Keep In Shape
The shape of your evergreens matters, particularly for shrubs that are pruned into more formal hedges. With trees, work to maintain the natural pointed or slightly rounded form of the plant. For shrubs, avoid giving the plants a flat top. The preferred shape should be rounded or pointed on top, with a bottom slightly wider than the top of the shrub. Rounded tops allow snow to slide off, which prevents the weight of the snow from splitting the shrub open. A wider bottom ensures that moisture and sunlight are reaching the entire plant.
Avoid Dead Spots
Evergreens follow a woody growth pattern. This means that new leaves or needles are produced on the ends of the branches, not near the base. If you cut too deeply into the plant, you remove the needle-producing wood and you end up with nothing but woody branch ends and bald spots. When you are pruning and shaping, never remove more than a third the needle or leaf covered branch length. If you prune at least once a year, you can maintain the shape without the need for extensive pruning. Make cuts where a needle clump or secondary branch diverts from the main branch, as this helps avoid the appearance of bare branch tips poking from the shrub or tree.
Evergreens may be low-maintenance, but they aren't zero-maintenance, and pruning is one of the important tasks you need to do. Contact a tree trimming service if you need more help.