How to Prune a Sophora Japonica


Sophora japonica, also called Japanese pagodatree or scholar tree, grows 30 to 75 feet tall depending on the cultivar. This tree flowers in the summer and produces green seed pods in the fall. It can tolerate poor soils and urban settings, as long as it has enough room to spread. This tree tends to grow with multiple leaders when young, but survives better if it has one central leader. Pruning, then, becomes necessary to produce a healthy tree.

Step 1

Sterilize your pruning shears in late fall or early winter, right as you are about to prune the Sophora japonica. Wipe the blades down thoroughly with a rag and rubbing alcohol. This will prevent the spread of disease between your plants.

Step 2

Survey the tree. Often, Sophora japonica grows with multiple leaders. Look for branches coming from the base of the tree that are the same width.

Step 3

Choose one central leader and prune out any other leaders that you noticed. If you fix this problem early, you can have a healthy, strong tree.

Step 4

Cut out weak or broken, diseased or dead branches. Also remove branches that cross or grow vertically. These hinder the growth of the tree and decrease air circulation.

Step 5

Examine the branches of the tree once more. Look at the spacing between the branches. For best possible growth of this type of tree, you will want even spacing between the branches. Cut out any that are too close together.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Rag
  • Rubbing alcohol


  • University of Florida Horticulture: Sophora Japonica
  • University of Florida IFAS Extension: Sophora Japonica 'Regent'
  • Virginia Cooperative Extension: Japanese Pagodatree
Keywords: pruning Sophora japonica, central leader, pruning scholar tree

About this Author

Sarah Morse recently graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in English language and literature. She has been freelancing for three months and got her start writing for an environmental website.