Fireberry hawthorns, crataegus chrysocarpa, are attractive shrubs or small trees that tolerate a wide range of soil types and will grow happily under other, larger trees, making them excellent choices for understory plantings. Left unpruned, fireberry hawthorns form large shrubs that are used for erosion control, wildlife habitat and windbreaks. If kept pruned, fireberry hawthorns will become small trees, generally reaching 15 to 20 feet. Once established, fireberry hawthorns only need pruning for sucker control and to keep them healthy.
Prune fireberry hawthorns in late winter or early spring while the plant is still dormant (does not have leaves).
Choose one leader, or stem, to form the trunk. It should be well formed and straight with well-spaced branches. Cut the rest to the ground. This is only done once at planting.
Remove weak branches (branches with less than a 45-degree angle to the trunk). Make cuts just outside the branch collar (thickened bark where the branch attaches to the trunk).
Remove branches that are rubbing or crossing other branches.
Prune for shape by removing branches or growth that make the tree look lopsided or unbalanced.
Remove dead, damaged, diseased or pest infested branches, cutting 2 to 3 inches into live wood. Make cuts just above a strong bud (the spot where leaves and branches emerge). This pruning can be done at any time of the year.
Remove suckers (stems that emerge from the roots) by cutting them back to the ground. This should be done as soon as you see the suckers.