How far back can you cut shrubs without killing them?

  3 answers
  • Linda Sikut Linda Sikut on Jun 09, 2017
    We've successfully cut ours back quite far but not to the ground. However, the general rule is 1/3 back. Here's an article that explains why: https://www.thespruce.com/pruning-rule-of-thirds-for-shrubs-3269526

    HTH

  • Donna Donna on Jun 10, 2017
    Depends on the plants...in general, lots of broadleaf evergreens (holly, azalea, camellias, sasanqua, ligustrum,) you can cut back severely (18"- 24") above the ground) if they are mature, healthy and just severely overgrown. Early spring, keep watered & lightly fertilized , trim just the tips of new shoots when they are about 6-12" long, just a pinch off the end will encourage branching. You will lose azalea blooms for the season, but the next year they will be back.
    Boxwood, evergreens like juniper & cedars are trickier, have to be done much more selectively. You can do pruning of a few branches, deep inside, closer to the trunk and a few more the next year...and see what happens, trimming the outer leaves into shape if you shear them. Some recover well, some don't.
    This is my experience in S. GA, which I think is similar to Midland TX in climate. Watering will be key.

  • Lisa Falkenthal Lisa Falkenthal on Jun 10, 2017
    I agree with above with one more caution: If you cut back a branch into old wood, the branch will die.