Floridata Article

Pruning Primer - Shearing

A sheared boxwood hedge at Tallahassee's Maclay Gardens
A formal boxwood hedge at Tallahassee's Maclay Gardens.

Shearing (or hedging) is the lopping off of all branches at the same height. It causes new growth to develop in all directions from just below the cut, and produces a leggy, top-heavy shrub. Shearing is almost never appropriate except in topiary and to create formal hedges with smooth geometric shapes.

A 'scalped' plum yew
This Japanese plum yew has been sheared such that it is wider at the top than at the base. This has left the sides of the shrub bare of foliage giving a stemmy appearance.

To prevent the top of a formal hedge from shading the bottom and causing weak growth and loss of foliage, the hedge must be wider at the base and taper gradually upward. A well proportioned formal hedge 5 ft (1.5 m) tall can be 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) wide at the base and only 1 ft (0.3 m) wide at the top. Or, it could be 3-4 ft (0.9-1.2 m) wide at the base and 2-3 ft (0.6-0.9 m) wide at the top. Formal hedges pruned to a flat-topped pyramid in this way will maintain foliage all the way to the ground.

Jack shears a yaupon holly.
Jack uses a shears to inflict topiary upon volunteer yaupon hollies.

Squared or rounded formal hedges and topiary should be pruned in the dormant season and also several times during the growing season - whenever they need it.

Steve Christman 3/6/01; updated 12/26/03, 9/21/15

Articles Index

Master Plant List

Click here to find plants in our Encyclopedia using the Master Plant List grid. Use this widget to search, sort and filter Floridata's plant database to easily locate Plant Profile pages. Use the dropdown menus to filter the grid to display items matching the selected Plant Type and Feature tags.

Plant Type Tags

tree icon
shrub icon
perennial plant icon
aquatic plant icon
cactus and succulents icon
grass icon
vine icon

Feature Tags

Attracts Birds
Attracts butterflies
Attracts Hummingbirds
Edible Plants
Cutting and Arranging
for pots and containers
drought tolerant plants
grows in wet soils
ornamental fruits
fall color
foliage plants
easy to grow plants
fast growing

Site Search

Use Google to search all of the pages on Floridata including the Plant Profile pages

Newest Plant Profiles


More Floridata:

Copyright 2015 Floridata.com LLC