First Pruning Conifers

Conifers come in all shapes and sizes. Many conifers can be trimmed into any shape desired, such as a sphere, a block or a column. Some conifers can even be planted as ground cover. Conifers add an extra dimension to the garden and have a distinguished appearance. They have been a source of fascination for centuries, which is why they have long been subjects for improvement and selection, with new conifers regularly being introduced to the market.


May is a suitable time to prune these exceptional trees. Many types do not need pruning, but this can be an option to prevent them from becoming too large. To obtain a neat shape, it is better to start pruning when the trees are still young. Do not wait until they have become too large.
Conifers grown as a hedge should be pruned a maximum of twice a year. Prune so that the hedge is wider at the bottom than at the top.
Most conifers can only handle a light shaving, removing the tips of the branches with a sharp blade. If this is done from a young age, the tree will remain dense and compact.
Arbor vitae (Thuja) and Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii) tolerate pruning better than most other conifers.

To prune or not to prune?

The yew (Taxus) is the only tree that can be pruned down to the bare bones, as it always produces new growth. However, this is a very slow-growing conifer.

Spruces and firs (Picea and Abies) must not be pruned. All you can do is pinch out any double tops.

Flat-growing conifers can be shortened by cutting the branches deep inside the tree, so that other branches can grow over the place where the tree has been pruned. The branches must never be cut off by running the shears over the outside of the tree. If this is done, the conifer will lose its natural shape and will never get this back.

Needle conifers tolerate pruning well.

Shaped conifersOnly use varieties that are suitable for trimming into a particular shape. Not all conifers lend themselves to this. Suitable varieties include the yew (Taxus), arbor vitae (Thuja occidentalis) and Leyland cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii). These trees are undemanding.