How to Prune Fourwing Saltbush


Fourwing saltbush is a spreading shrub, native to high and low Western deserts from Canada to Mexico. This 5-foot tall plant has a massive, woody root system which allows it to withstand drought very well. It produces thin, gray-green leaves and copious papery seeds which stay on the plant much of the year. Fourwing saltbush makes an excellent choice for habitat restoration because its seeds and new growth are eaten by many animals, and its roots hold even highly eroded soils. This hardy shrub evolved with browsing animals and needs pruning at specific times to maintain its vigor and beauty.

Step 1

Protect young fourwing saltbush shrubs from browsing animals, and do not prune at all for the first 18 months of growth.

Step 2

Shear 2 to 4 inches from the branch tips in late winter with pruning shears when the plants are 2 years old and have well developed woody stems. This will stimulate a flush of bushy, new growth the following spring.

Step 3

Shape your shrubs by clipping the branch tips to the desired height and form. You can prune fourwing saltbushes heavily after the second year, and shape them into hedges.

Step 4

Create a dwarf standard tree by pruning away the bottom branches of a mature fourwing saltbush using loppers. Leave 1 to 3 main trunks, and trim back the top branches to balance the shrub.

Tips and Warnings

  • Allergy sufferers are sometimes irritated by fourwing saltbush pollen in spring. Fourwing saltbush reseeds heavily and can become invasive, especially near irrigated garden beds.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Loppers
  • Work gloves


  • University of Arizona, Office of Arid Lands Studies
  • Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes; Judy Mielke; 1993
Keywords: pruning fourwing saltbush, pruning chamiso, pruning atriplex canescens

About this Author

Malia Marin is a landscape designer and freelance writer, specializing in sustainable design, native landscapes and environmental education. She holds a Masters in landscape architecture, and her professional experience includes designing parks, trails and residential landscapes. Marin has written numerous articles, over the past ten years, about landscape design for local newspapers.