How to Prune a Staghorn Sumac

Written by sharon sweeny
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How to Prune a Staghorn Sumac
Sumac provides visual interest in the winter landscape. (Jupiterimages/ Images)

Staghorn sumac (Rhus typina), which is native to eastern North America, is one of the best woody perennials for four-season interest. Its medium green, feather-like, compound leaves can grow 2 feet long. Staghorn sumac's divided structure gives the shrub the illusion of fullness, even in early spring. Greenish-yellow, panicles of flowers 4 to 8 inches long bloom in midsummer, then turn crimson red and become packed with fruit by summer's end. The brownish bark has tiny, whitish hairs that are very apparent in winter. These hair-covered branches, which resemble the antlers of a stag deer, give the plant its common name.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

Things you need

  • Pruning clippers
  • Pruning saw

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  1. 1

    Prune off all branches that are dead or diseased, cutting them off just above ground level.

  2. 2

    Remove all branches that are growing out of the ground beyond the desired footprint of your staghorn sumac plant. Make the cut just above the level of the soil.

  3. 3

    Cut off the largest and thickest branches to make growing room for newer branches that will produce more flowers. Always prune branches of staghorn sumac down to ground level. Do not "head off"---or cut the branches off at half their height.

  4. 4

    Rejuvenate an overgrown clump of staghorn sumac by cutting all of its branches to the ground. It will grow back from its roots, sometimes producing flowers and fruits the same year.

Tips and warnings

  • Prune out any stray suckers growing outside the footprint of the plant any time during the growing season. This will help contain the shrub's vigour and keep it from taking over the area.

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