How to prune snowberry bushes

Written by cat mccabe
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How to prune snowberry bushes
Keep pruning tools clean and sharp. (George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Snowberry bush (Symphoricarpos albus) is a medium-size ornamental shrub best known for brilliant white berries that emerge from September to November. Oval, blue-green leaves dot snowberry branches in spring and summer, and its overall shape is loose and open when left alone. Depending on the cultivar, snowberry can grow slowly to a height and spread of 1.2 to 2.4 m (4 to 8 feet). Prune snowberry for shape or rejuvenation in early spring, before new growth begins.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Long-handled pruning shears
  • Cloth and rubbing alcohol
  • Rake
  • Garden waste bags (optional)

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  1. 1

    Clean pruning shear blades before use to prevent problems in pruning wounds. Dip them in boiling water for 30 seconds or wipe with a clean cloth and rubbing alcohol to kill insects, spores and bacteria that may be present.

  2. 2

    Examine the snowberry bush for dead wood. Test branches for flexibility by bending them if you're unsure. If they break, they're dead. Follow the dead branches back to living wood and clip them out.

  3. 3

    Examine what's left after removing the dead wood. If what remains is sparse, prune for rejuvenation. Cut all the branches back to 15 cm (6 inches) from the ground. The snowberry will recover, much as butterfly bushes do, sending out multiple new shoots from the cut areas.

  4. 4

    Trim snowberry bushes for shape if rejuvenation isn't necessary. Select branches that are flopping from their own weight, blocking windows or rubbing against other plants. Clip each one as far back as necessary, but try not to remove more than one-third of the canopy foliage in any given year.

  5. 5

    Rake up and dispose of snowberry prunings. Put them in garden waste bags or add them to a compost pile. Clean and dry pruning shears before storing or using them on other plants.

Tips and warnings

  • Snowberry bushes make an attractive informal hedge when planted in a row, 1.2 to 1.5 m (4 to 5 feet) apart.
  • Don't use hedge shears on snowberry bushes. Shearing, especially in fall or late spring, will prevent too many of its growth tips from setting fruit and flowers.

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