How to Prune California Wax Myrtle


California wax myrtle, known botanically as Morella californica, is a species of evergreen perennial shrub or small tree that belongs to the bayberry family. It flowers by producing catkins from April through July that are either white or yellow, with purple berries following the bloom. California wax myrtle is prized for use in hedges and as an ornamental specimen due to its glossy evergreen foliage and colored fruits.

Step 1

Maintenance prune your California wax myrtle as needed throughout the year to remove any damaged or diseased foliage or branches if you see them. Make a habit of inspecting your shrub each time you water with your secateurs in hand to catch any problems as they arise and prevent disease from spreading. Cut off the damage until you come to healthy wood and make all cuts at least one-quarter inch above a leaf node to encourage new branching.

Step 2

Shape California wax myrtle into hedging and topiary shapes by using long blade manual or electric shears to trim the shrub into the desired shape. Hold the cutting blades nearly parallel with the shrub foliage to create flat planes. Hold the blade at various angles to created rounded or other shapes. Prune as needed to retain the shape and form. Wax myrtle is a medium grower and will likely require two or three pruning sessions per year depending on the complexity and crispness of the shape. Maintain a tree form by cutting off all growth emanating from the trunk below your desired canopy line.

Step 3

Conduct an annual pruning of your California myrtle in the fall or early spring to maintain the natural form and desired size of the shrub. If you prune in the fall be sure to complete the job well before the first hard frost; if you prune in the spring do so after the last hard frost which reduces stress on the shrub. Remove no more than one-third of the plant foliage when you prune in order to reduce stress on the plant and prevent shock.

Step 4

Water your wax myrtle deeply around its roots after you prune to help the shrub recover from the process. This will also help the shrub to prepare new growth without being stressed for water.

Things You'll Need

  • Secateurs or loppers
  • Handsaw
  • Long blade shears


  • USDA Plant Database Profile
Keywords: morella californica, perennial shrub california wax myrtle, prune cut back trim

About this Author

A communications professional, D.C. Winston has more than 17 years of experience writing and editing content for online publications, corporate communications, business clients, industry journals and film/broadcast media. Winston studied political science at the University of California, San Diego.