How to Prune Russet Buffaloberry


Russet buffaloberry is a deciduous shrub, which ranges across Canada, down as far south as Arizona and New Mexico. This tough native can survive extreme drought, cold and poor soils unscathed. It grows from 3-13 feet high, and has an open, airy habit. The rounded, green leaves are covered with rust colored hairs on the undersides. Male and female shrubs must be planted together in order for the small yellow flowers to develop into translucent, red-orange berries in late summer. With careful pruning, you can tame this rugged shrub into a garden charmer.

Step 1

Remove any damaged or dead wood in early spring, before new growth begins with loppers or pruning shears. Prune away any crossed branches, leaving the healthiest or largest ones. This will increase air flow and light to the healthy wood, and will stimulate a flush of new growth.

Step 2

Clip the top branches using loppers or pruning shears to control height and shape the plant in late fall. Shear off the last few inches of the side branch tips to encourage bushiness. Russet buffaloberry can be shaped into an open hedge with consistent light pruning over a few seasons.

Step 3

Control the spread of russet buffaloberry by pruning away the root suckers that may emerge from the base of mature plants. In dry conditions this happens infrequently, but when irrigated, this shrub can spread slowly to become a wide stand.

Tips and Warnings

  • Consume these berries in moderation because they contain saponins, which may be toxic in large concentrations. Be aware it is illegal to cultivate russet buffaloberry in Maine because it is listed as an endangered species in that state.

Things You'll Need

  • Work gloves
  • Loppers
  • Pruning shears


  • U.S. Forest Service
  • Plants for a Future
Keywords: Pruning Russet Buffaloberry, Pruning Canada Buffaloberry, Pruning Sheperdia canadensis

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.