How to Cut Down an Evergreen Shrub

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Useful landscaping shrubs, evergreens provide year-round greenery as well as flowers and berries. Removing a dead, diseased or unsightly evergreen is a weekend job. While you could just cut the shrub to the ground, you'll probably want to remove the stump as well so you can plant something else in its place.

Things You'll Need

  • Hand shears
  • Pruning saw
  • Twine
  • Digging spade
  • Utility bar (or landscape bar)

Cutting Down an Evergreen Shrub

  • Cut back smaller branches with hand-pruning shears until you can reach the woody, main branches. Some evergreen shrubs, like hemlock, juniper or boxwood, have a lot of spindly little branches that are tedious to cut. Shear these back with large pruning shears until you have good access to larger branches.

  • Cut the main branches with a pruning saw. If the branches are stiff and strong, leave 2 to 3 feet of branch remaining at the base of the shrub (holly, azaleas and euonymus usually have some strong main branches). These branches will provide leverage later. Cut small, brittle branches to the ground.

  • Place a 4-foot-long piece of twine on the ground. Stack the cut branches on top of the twine and tightly wrap the twine twice around the branches. Tie a knot in the twine to secure the branches, then dispose of them. For shrubs with prickly leaves like holly and oregon grape holly, wrap the twine completely up the length of the branches to protect yourself (or the trashman) from scratches.

Removing the Stump

  • Dig a 6-inch-deep trench around the base of the evergreen shrub. Some evergreens have widely spreading root systems, so you may need to dig deeper. The trench should be 15 to 20 inches out from the base of the shrub so it lays outside most of the root system (again, more for invasive evergreen shrubs).

  • Cut through the roots with the landscaping bar by digging the bar into the soil. Snip through smaller roots with the pruning shears. Cut through thick roots with the pruning saw.

  • Grab remaining above-ground branches and rock back and forth to dislodge the shrub. Pry the landscape bar underneath the evergreen shrub's root system and slowly heave the roots out of the ground. Move around the shrub applying pressure to different areas with the landscape bar. Slowly the shrub will dislodge and you can remove it. The root systems of evergreen shrubs are surprisingly heavy. You may need two people to lift the root ball out of the ground.

Tips & Warnings

  • Cutting down evergreen shrubs is dusty, dirty work. Some evergreens like the Oregon Grape Holly have prickly leaves. Junipers are full of dirt and cobwebs. Wear workgloves and protective clothing.
  • Try to get all of the roots out or shrubs may regrow.
  • If your shrub is taller than 6 feet, you'll need a ladder to get to the top branches. Use care and have someone help you remove large branches.

References

  • Photo Credit evergreen image by Joann Cooper from Fotolia.com
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