Shrubs – If you are trimming all of yours at the same time you are probably doing it wrong.

Written by Mollie Bickert, Marketing Coordinator

On September 21st, I had the opportunity to sit down with Brad Bateman, our Landscape Maintenance Division Leader, Certified Arborist and Master Gardener.  We like to call him the Michael Jordan of landscape maintenance here at All-Terrain.  Brad has worked for All-Terrain for 11 years so he is the perfect candidate to be grilled with questions about shrub and tree trimming.



M: So the main question on everyone’s mind is which shrubs should be trimmed in the fall and why?

B: I would say it’s easier to list which plants you shouldn’t trim in the fall.  You should never trim any shrubs that bloom on old wood, lilacs are an example of this.  Also you shouldn’t trim evergreens, they need time to heal before it freezes outside.  Everything else should be good to trim in the fall.  Different plants bloom during different times of the year so that makes each plant on its own schedule for trimming.  Take forsythia, they are early bloomers and once they are done blooming you would want to trim them right away.

M: Does it benefit the shrub to prune in the fall?

B: It is beneficial for us to cut out all the dead and unwanted branches and reshape the plant.  This doesn’t work as well in the summer and if you don’t do them in the fall they get too crowded and will choke themselves out in the spring.

M: We’ve heard a lot about this rejuvenation pruning thing, what exactly is that?


Rejuvenation Pruning

B: Rejuvenation pruning is the removal of old overgrown limbs so that the plant can grow new, vigorous branches in their place.  Plants that require rejuvenation can be hard pruned or pruned gradually.  Hard pruning involves cutting the shrub off to a height of 6 to 12 inches above the ground and allowing it to regrow.  This is perfect for those big ugly plants that have gotten out of control because it’s a good time to make your plants smaller – there’s no restriction on how much you can take off.


M: How should I care for my perennials in the fall?

B: You should cut them down once everything has gone dormant and is looking dead.  When you are cutting them down make sure you cut them the right amount, which is to about two inches.  The biggest mistake that people make is not cutting them short enough.

M:  And why is fall tree care important?

B: It’s more important that you’re taking care of your trees after the leaves have fallen.  So it’s the best time of year to make the cuts and prune.


Evergreen Trees

M: How late can I plant new shrubs and trees? 

B:  You can plant shrubs and trees until the ground freezes.  Also fall is a great time of year to plant trees.  They don’t have to compete against weeds since they will be dying out, so the trees get all the nutrients, they freeze, and then they will be perfect in the spring.  If you have any evergreen trees, make sure you water those a lot before it freezes.  I would put a hose on each one for a half an hour each, and the pine needles will really soak up all the water.

M: Do I need to wrap any of my trees or shrubs in that burlap stuff?

B: No – you can if it makes you feel better but it doesn’t make much of a difference.

M: How does pruning help the trees get ready for winter?

B: Once the trees are dormant you can really help them get ready for spring.  You are pretty much teaching the tree how to grow by pruning the unruly and crazy branches so when it grows in the spring it’ll look the way you want.  Also by trimming/pruning trees in the fall it helps eliminate safety issues when it comes to dead branches breaking off and falling in the winter.

M: When do you trim your own trees?

B: I personally trim my trees in late fall, usually around Halloween.  When spring comes I trim them again.  For some of our accounts (like Scheels), we go to trim/prune their trees three or four times a year to really make them look nice and keep them under control.


Brad Bateman

M: Okay last question and possibly the most important.  What’s your favorite lawn care joke?

B: How does the dogwood tree get its name?  From its bark!

So now you should be an expert on why you shouldn’t be trimming all of your shrubs and trees at the same time, right?  Fall is generally a really great time for lawn care, and as we learned today trimming most shrubs and trees should be on that list! To see more info about our landscape maintenance department just click here.