Hard-pruning Pyracantha

Discussion in 'Woody Plants' started by Lajo, Jul 27, 2006.

  1. Lajo

    Lajo Member

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    Greetings.

    My townhouse complex has some large pyracanthas along the south-facing fences of our complex. They look like they have been there since the complex was built, about 20 years ago. Since I moved in 3 years ago they have grown not only taller, but a lot wider - currently they are about 6-7' high, and about 3-4' wide(deep). There are two problems with them that I am hoping to address; one is the width(depth) of them, which is starting to become a problem, as they are overgrowing the grass along our boulevard, the second is that in some middle sections of the hedge, as well as on the back side against the fence, they are starting to die. There was only a little of this last year, but now they are starting to look rather sad and I would like to try and see what can be done to save them. The parts that are still alive are very vigorous in their growth, but again, the whole plant does not seem to be very happy/healthy.

    Does anyone know how these types of plants would respond to a very hard pruning, and if this would encourage the 'dead' areas to produce foliage again? If so, are these something that would come back quickly, or would they be stumps for a year or more?

    Also, is it not possible to restrict the wedth/depth of the plant somewhat with shearing? If it is, how often would we need to have them sheared in order to keep the size down, but still have growth on the outside?

    Any help with these questions would be much appreciated.

    Lajo, North Vancouver, BC
     
  2. Raakel

    Raakel Active Member

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    Hello Lajo,

    There are a couple things to consider when pruning Pyracantha. The first is that they are a menace because of their sharp spines, and so be sure to wear long sleeves, pants and leather gloves when pruning. I would recommend heading back your shrub (cutting off portions of the stem or branch, and removing terminal growth), rather than shearing the plant. This is my personal preference, as I favour a less formal appearance. It is also a better pruning method. Here is a link which describes how to head back. You can prune Pyracantha hard (remove a great deal of growth) without harming the plant. If your goal is a more formal appearance, you can head back making selected cuts that will create a formal shape.

    Pyracantha are usually grown for their attractive berries, and so you may want to avoid removing a lot of the flowers. If this is not a concern, you can prune your plant this summer. Otherwise wait until the plant flowers, and avoid removing the flowers if possible. Here is another link which describes pruning Pyracantha specifically.

    Concerning your hedge, it may respond to the increased light depending on the type of shrub it is. If it is a cedar hedge, it is less likely to respond, and fill in with fresh green growth. I cannot tell you one way or the other, without knowing what the plant is.

    Raakel
     
  3. Lajo

    Lajo Member

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    Hello Raakel.

    Many thanks for your suggestions and website links - I will certainly have a look. With regards to the hedge I was mentioning - this is the same type of pyracantha I was asking about and it has some areas within it that are dead. I will see what the websites you included may have to say about this.

    Regards,

    Lajo
     
  4. Eric La Fountaine

    Eric La Fountaine Rising Contributor UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years of Activity

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    I will add a second caution about the thorns. One of my neighbors had a severe reaction to a prick from pyracantha and had to seek medical treatment to save his hand. This reaction is apparently not common. The name Pyracantha (fire thorn) is usually attributed to the blazing red fruit, but I have also read that it was the burning sensation of a reaction to the thorns that gave the plant its name .
     
  5. Lajo

    Lajo Member

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    Thank you, Eric - I will be sure to use much caution and leather gloves, etc. when tackling this project, and ensure that I have help nearby just in case.

    I appreciate the second warning.

    Lajo
     

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