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How to Prune a Staghorn Sumac

Updated February 21, 2017

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.

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

  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. 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. 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.

  5. Tip

    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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Things You'll Need

  • Pruning clippers
  • Pruning saw

About the Author

Sharon Sweeny has a college degree in general studies and worked as an administrative and legal assistant for 20 years before becoming a professional writer in 2008. She specializes in writing about home improvement, self-sufficient lifestyles and gardening.

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