How to Prune Indian Hawthorn Shrubs

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Glossy, dark green foliage that persists across the winter is one attractive characteristic of the Indian hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica and Rhaphiolepis umbellata). The shrub also is relatively tidy and compact in its growth, rarely needing pruning, except perhaps for trimming back selective out-of-bounds twigs. With little pruning maintenance needed, the five-petaled flowers in late spring are seen in good numbers, as are the dark-purplish black berries in autumn. Select the right size of Indian hawthorn for your garden so that you don't need to cut it back severely to keep it in bounds.

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Look over the Indian hawthorn shrub in early spring, noting any awkwardly reaching branches or stems that may jut out from the overall dense, rounded foliage mass. Also look for any dead or damaged branches that should be immediately removed.

Tip-prune stems that are too long with a hand pruners, making the cut 1/4-inch above a living lower leaf, branch stem or dormant bud. Remove dead stems and branches by making the cut 1/4-inch above their connections to the main trunk or side branches, or above a dormant lower bud or swollen scar in lower stem tissue that is still alive. Living stems are bendable and somewhat soft to the touch, unlike dry, rigid dead twigs.

Maintain the current size and shape of the hawthorn by pinching or cutting tips of the new growth that spreads out in late spring after flowering wanes. By selectively cutting off the soft green growth tips on certain branches, the perfectly sized sides of the shrub can be retained while shorter, untouched branches can be allowed to add more foliage and stem length.

Prune diseased branches or those damaged by browsing animals such as deer or by severe weather as needed. Follow the guidelines in the second step.

Tips & Warnings

  • Deer are known to forage upon this shrub, and may defoliate hawthorn shrubs or render them lopsided and ugly after a feeding. Corrective prune these harmed shrubs in spring or early summer so that regrowth is strong and vigorous; don't prune in fall or winter.
  • Do not shear the foliage with hedge trimmers. Leaves that are cut in half have a tendency to brown or sun-scald and will make the hawthorn look sickly and ugly.


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