How to Prune Winterberry

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Winterberry, a species of holly, is a decorative tree known for its bright red berries that grace both the winter landscape and many Christmas wreathes. Birds find the berries attractive and the presence of this plant can often turn a barren winter garden into one teeming with color and life. Winterberry's maintenance needs are low, and the plant does best without much pruning at all. The plant can be shaped into various forms without much effort, and a light pruning in early spring can greatly improve the quantity of berries produced later in the year.

Things You'll Need

  • Garden shears or snippers
  • Gardening gloves
  • Cut away any branches that impede a path or doorway the winterberry is growing near so as to not hinder any pedestrians.

  • Snip off any broken, damaged or sagging branches. Since winterberry bark is very thin, the limbs can become easily damaged and snap away.

  • Remove any limbs that jut out from the general form you are trying to achieve. Winterberry shrubs can be trimmed into any shape without much difficulty.

Tips & Warnings

  • Avoid pruning too much, or the shrub will have a difficult time growing. Winterberry generally needs very little pruning, and will yield more berries when pruning is light. According to Horticulturist Jessica Walliser, you generally should not cut more than one third of the total plant height.
  • Pruning winterberry in the early spring will help encourage more berries, provided the pruning is not too extreme.
  • Place any branches you plan to keep in a bucket of lukewarm water. This will keep them nicely alive until you're ready to make wreathes from them later.
  • Sanitize your garden shears to prevent spreading diseases from plant to plant.
  • While a tasty treat for birds, the bright red berries of this plant are poisonous to humans.

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