Can we trim our spruce trees? #167746 - Ask Extension

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Can we trim our spruce trees? #167746

Asked February 22, 2014, 6:21 PM EST

Hi, we just bought a house and there are 3 spruce trees (identified by the square needles, not sure what type though), with 8-10 in diameter trunks, about 15-20 feet tall along the driveway with branches that are growing into the driveway so it's hard to fit a second car on it without brushing against the branches.  The cones are about 2-3 inches long and hang downward, near the top of the trees.  They look beautiful and full, but there are only needles on the outer foot or so of the branches, underneath it's all bare.  Is there a way to trim the branches back without hurting the trees?  Would needles grow again if we cut all the way to the bare parts?

Boulder County Colorado

Expert Response

Evergreens require minimal pruning as they tend to maintain their form without, and pruning is usually only warranted to remove dead, diseased, damaged or disoriented (crossing or rubbing) branches. Controlling size in spruce trees is best done by pinching off new growth (candles) before the needles expand in the spring. To a small degree, controlling size may result from pruning actively growing portions of the branch, the portions of the branch with needles, in the early spring; however, pruning mature evergreens to maintain size is generally not recommended as the amount of pruning that can be done without affecting the tree aesthetically or structurally is limited. Prune branches back to an actively growing lateral branch or remove entire branches where they originate from the trunk. Be sure to leave the branch collar intact when removing branches to ensure the pruning wound heals correctly. Don't prune evergreens as hard as you would deciduous trees because they have a much slower growth rate. Pruning back to the "dead zone", or portion of the branches without needles, will result in bare areas that won't recover as there are no buds to create new foliage in these areas. For tips on pruning evergreen trees, including spruce trees, please see Colorado Master Garden Notes #617, "Pruning Evergreens": http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/gardennotes/617.html. This CSU Extension Fact Sheet illustrates proper pruning cuts: http://www.ext.colostate.edu/mg/gardennotes/612.html
Micaela Truslove Replied February 25, 2014, 3:55 PM EST

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