When shaping shrubs, your best results will come from honoring their natural growth habit. Each shrub is genetically programmed for a certain size, shape, and branching pattern. Prune in ways that support these features and preserve each plant's character. Some of the more common pruning methods are outlined below. These techniques are for specific plants, but you can use them on plants with similar habits. Forsythia Overgrown shrubs look unkempt and unattractive and don't bloom well. Thinning the dense foliage-covered branches of forsythia allows light and air to penetrate and improve the plant's health. Cut back excessively long branches. Clip them off where a leaf emerges on the stem, near the main mass of foliage. Vary the lengths of the cuts to avoid a sheared look. Reach deep within the plant to clip off particularly large or twiggy branches at the point where they join a main branch. Once you have established the general shape of the plant, give the shrub a final once-over.
Be sure no branches rub against walls or tangle in nearby plants. Evergreen hedges To shape an evergreen hedge, taper the sides so the lower branches are wider than those at the top. If the sun reaching foliage on the sides of the hedge is insufficient, the foliage will die back. To stimulate growth, trim a hedge with hedge shears or electric clippers below the desired height in spring. When you prune later in the season, remove only a portion of new growth. Boxwood Boxwood is commonly used as a hedge shrub because it tolerates repeated shearing. Consider boxwood for individual plantings too; it contributes attractive, fine-textured evergreen foliage to a mixed border. To prune a boxwood that's not in a hedge, use hand pruners, rather than hedge shears, to clip off individual branches that protrude from the main body of the shrub. Cut the branches at slightly different lengths to avoid creating a sheared shape.