How to prune an Arbutus

Discussion in 'Outdoor Gardening in the Pacific Northwest' started by Lydia532, May 19, 2010.

  1. Lydia532

    Lydia532 Member

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    Arbutus grow like weeds in my yard, volunteers from neighboring greenbelt. I love the look but on a 1/3 acre lot it would not be pudent to let them grow. I would like to keep a few as smaller pruned specimens but I am not sure how to go about it. Some are single trunked and others are multi. Should I cut the central leader? If I don't prune them I will have to remove them and I hate to do that.
     
  2. Eric La Fountaine

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

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    I don't know much about the actual pruning, but I have seen a few specimens that were kept in a shrub shape in small yards--one I know is pruned into a rather severe umbrella shape--so they must tolerate it OK. I would be very careful about the potential for spreading any pathogens. Make sure you clean your tools between each cut (wipe with bleach or alcohol and wipe blade dry.)

    I have to say the trees are much more beautiful when left natural. The trunk and shedding bark are the most beautiful aspects of the trees.
     
  3. Lydia532

    Lydia532 Member

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    I agree with all that you stated but I cannot keep them in my yard unless I prune them to keep their height under control as my property is not on the greenbelt. My choices are to prune or dig up. I'm hoping to prune if I can find some information on how to go about it correctly. I've searched other sights for specifics on the Arbutus but found nothing. I may just have to go with a general tree pruning regimen.
     
  4. Michael F

    Michael F Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    Not bleach! That will corrode the metal, leaving microscopic pitting in the blade - invisible to the human eye, but ideal for storing and transporting infective material. Only use a non-corrosive disinfectant.
     
  5. tlpenner

    tlpenner Active Member

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    Have you considered limbing them up? That is, prune off the branches up to 12-15' height or so.

    I have a seen a small grove on a 1/4 acre Bowen Island property where the branches are kept pruned off right at the main stem(s) to allow for light to come through. They have been that way for about 5 years and look great and healthy, and plenty of light gets into the yard.

    A grove of Arbutus looks outstanding with drifts of daffodils, camas lilies, california poppy and shasta daisies beneath.
     
  6. Lydia532

    Lydia532 Member

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    Sounds beautiful! My concern is the height. If I let them grow I will obscure my neighbors views of the city. Even though we don't have community bylaws pertaining to this issue I would like to keep my neighbors as friends ; ) Thanks for the input!
     
  7. Green Crown

    Green Crown Active Member 10 Years

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    If there are quite a few stems growing together, a good idea may be to select a few of the healthiest of them, well spaced apart, and remove the rest. The increased airflow from the spacing should help to reduce the chance of canker growth, a real problem here in Vancouver BC. If it can be helped, it is definitely better not to reduce the height of the trees. If you reduce them to only a few stems, the shape of a mature arbutus isn't normally a huge view-blocker. They normally have a relatively sparse canopy. They may actually serve to be a nice break in the viewscape. The harder you prune them, particularly with height reduction, will serve to make them grow thicker and bushier in the long-term. Also, each pruning cut could serve as an entry point for canker, so it should be done judiciously with this species.
     
  8. Lydia532

    Lydia532 Member

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    Thank you Jason. I am going to use your advice and sparingly prune. I have one that I will experiment on and see what the results are in the next few years.
     

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