It’s easy to look at your shrubs and tell when they’re due for a trim. But did you know there are several different ways to shape your plant?

From pinching to pruning to heading to shearing, no two cuts are the same, and each different technique gives our plants a distinct look and feel.

If your head is spinning with the endless possibilities, you’re in the right place! Below, get the lowdown on two types of shrub trimming and find out which is best for your plant.

What's the difference between shearing and pruning?

Prune, trim, shear, cut. They might all sound about the same, but there are important differences between pruning and shearing a shrub.

  • Pruning is the practice of selectively removing branches throughout a shrub for proper size, health, and structure while shearing targets just the outer edges of
  • a shrub strictly for aesthetics
  • Pruning cuts encourage growth throughout the plant, but with shearing, growth is limited to the plant’s outer parts, and the inside of the plant doesn’t grow as much
  • Pruning cuts cater to the plant’s natural shape, while shearing cuts train the plant to take an artificial look
  • Pruning lets you dictate the plant’s size. With shearing, it’s harder to control how large the plant gets

Should you be shearing evergreen shrubs?

Shearing is perfect for plants in formal landscapes. When you shear, you trim the shrub with the goal of maintaining an elegant, showy look.

In the average landscape, however, sheared shrubs look out of place. Plus, once you shear a shrub, it’ll need to be trimmed several more times throughout the growing season to maintain its formal look. Pruned shrubs, on the other hand, don’t need as much attention and are trimmed in tune with their natural shape.

You should opt to prune, not shear, your shrubs for a more conventional look that’s better for the plant’s health and takes much less time to maintain.

Any negative consequences of shearing?

According to Adam Cervin of Davey’s Hartney Greymont office in Needham, Massachusetts, shearing comes with a cost to your plant’s health.

“When you regularly shear plants instead of hand pruning them, you end up with really heavy growth on the outside of the plant that shades the inside of the plant,” Adam explains. “So, while the outer parts of the shrub are green and growing, the inner parts of the plant that aren’t getting any sunlight are browning and dying.”

Plus, Adam says that shearing gets rid of one of the plant’s most valuable parts—new growth.

“Shearing concentrates on the outer portion of the plant, which is where all the new growth happens. When you shear, you cut away all the shrub’s new sprouts and leave behind the older, less healthy plant parts. All in all, that process is not good for the plant’s structure and health.”

When it comes to shaping your plant, selectively pruning is preferred over shearing. It may take a little more time than shearing, but, if you still need more convincing about the positive effects of pruning, look no further!

Read all about how pruning benefits your shrubs in this blog post.


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