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How to cut conifers properly
How to cut conifers properly

Video: How to cut conifers properly

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Video: Time Lapse of Our Conifer Trees Being Topped, Reduced and Dressed, March 2019 - Ep096 2023, January

Cutting conifers properly is not that easy. The coniferous tree grows only at the tips of the shoots and punishes you with unsightly, bare holes if cut incorrectly. Learn how to cut conifers properly here.

The conifers or conifers native to almost all over the world include yew, cypress and pine plants. Among our most common representatives are fir, spruce, pine, yew, cedar and juniper. Rather unusual species are the trees of life and primeval sequoias.

In contrast to deciduous trees, the conifers have no sleeping eyes and only grow at the tips of the shoots. This means that the rest of the tree no longer grows. Although they only grow over the tips of the shoots, they reach considerable heights and therefore have to be trimmed every now and then. Breeding or nursery gardens don't get quite as big as the wild relatives - so you better put them. When cutting conifers, you should make sure that you do not take too much away, as conifers really resent this and simply do not continue to grow or sprout again. Unsightly, bare spots form, which expose the view of the dry interior. The exception is the yew, which even tolerates a radical pruning.

Maintenance cut for garden conifers

The conifers in your garden do not require annual pruning. The cut is only for correction or maintenance. During the maintenance cut, you remove all the dead, dried and bent branches from the conifer. Very dense plants are more susceptible to wind than their less compact relatives. Here you have the option of removing individual branches from the crown.

Trees of life and juniper often grow in width. You can get a good grip on this growth by cutting long branches back to the roots of the side shoots on the top of the shoots. The best time to do this is in early summer. To disguise the cuts, it is advisable to place them inside the conifer.

You can control the growth of pine trees relatively easily by using the bonsai cut as a template. To do this, shorten the candle-shaped shoots every two years before the needles open by about 65 percent. This creates several small buds at the incisions, which will sprout in the next year, form small branches and thus guarantee a dense plant.

Hedge and topiary of conifers

The best way to create hedges is with conifers, the needles of which grow very densely. Pine, yew, spruce and thujen are particularly suitable. If you don't just remove the young shoots during the cut, the conifer will punish you with the cessation of growth. Bald holes form that you can only hide or tear out with other plants. So if your hedge has grown very wide over the years, you have no choice but to put up with it and let it stand - or to remove it completely.

The best time to cut the hedge from conifers is summer - in July. You cut pine trees with the first shoot, either in May or June, and spruce hedges are best cut in autumn, after the second shoot. You can follow the same rules for topiary cutting as for hedge trimming.


Conifers that are well suited for a hedge have densely growing needles.

Photo: iVerde / h. van de Laar

There is no specific time to prune thuja hedges (tree of life). As long as the conifer has green leaf scales on the branches, they will continue to sprout, even in winter. Even isolated cuts of the flank into the woody, leafless part of the plant put away the thuja by balancing it out from the side with other shoots that are still able to sprout. It only becomes dangerous when you have removed a large part of the flank so far that it is hardly possible to see green. If the tree of life hedge has become too high for you, you can easily cut individual, thicker trunks to the height you want. From above, the hedge looks more like the crown, then very bare, but grows back with side shoots after a few years. The only thing to keep in mind when shortening the height is that you don't cut deeper than eye level - the crown takes a few years to grow and the leafless branches would otherwise be visible a little longer.

The yew is the most tolerable plant among the conifers and can cope with any kind of pruning, even a very radical one except for a bare frame with branches only ten centimeters thick. However, such pruning is generally not necessary, at most for really old hedges that have been neglected for years and are therefore very wide. An annual topiary is common for yew trees, preferably in the middle of the year. You can safely remove individual shoots in spring.

Conifers as garden bonsai

The idea behind the bonsai pruning is to replicate large trees in small format. If you too want to grow conifers as bonsai and want to keep short, very compact shoots, it is important that you pay attention to an annual cut of the shoot tips. You bring the small-sized coniferous species into the desired shape with a lot of manual work and calmness via bending and pillow-like cutting. In order to maintain this shape, you have to remove the new shoots from the conifer at regular intervals. The best way to do this is in May, where the “candles” are still very soft and can simply be pulled out by hand.

Do the same for the particularly popular tier-like growth in pine and pine hedges and best shorten the tips after the new shoot. If it is absolutely necessary, you can also remove individual branches in winter. However, make sure that the temperatures are not below freezing.

Tips for cutting conifers

  • In general it is possible to feel up.
  • It is best to cut pine after new shoots in May or June / ideally cut other conifers in late summer from the end of July.
  • Avoid cutting on hot, sunny days, as parts inside are exposed and could dry out due to the sun.
  • No matter if hedge or single plant: Always cut only the green shoots.
  • Never cut back a lot, or only cut very little.
  • Removing the central shoot stops growth in height. After a while, a side shoot will replace it, but the spot is marked forever by an unsightly kink.

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