How to Prune Rhus Trilobata

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Native to the western half of the United States, skunkbush sumac (Rhus trilobata) -- named because its leaves emit a foul smell when crushed -- is a low maintenance, deciduous shrub that tolerates drought-like conditions. Hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 5 through 10, skunkbush sumac benefits from pruning -- though it is often not necessary if the bush is healthy and you decide to let nature take its course.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Cut back unwanted shoots to the ground at any time of year to prevent the skunkbush sumac bush from spreading into undesirable areas. It is not terribly invasive, but you might need to continue with this regimen as needed to keep a thriving specimen in its proper space.

  • Prune away dead, damaged, diseased or insect-infested stems, or cut them back to healthy growth as needed throughout the year to maintain a healthy, thriving skunkbush sumac.

  • Shape and reduce the height of a skunkbush sumac, as desired. This shrub is often shaped into a round, compact form. Thin the plant as well at this time. As a general rule, do not remove more than one-third of the stems to maintain the integrity of the shrub. Conduct these prunings from spring until fall, but prune in spring after flowering if you want to fully enjoy the shrub's floral display.

Tips & Warnings

  • This species of plant is sometimes classified as Rhus aromatica "Trilobata."
  • The three-leaf formation of a skunkbush sumac looks similar to other poisonous plants, but it is not harmful.

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