How to Prune Northern Spicebush


Northern spicebush is a shrub found growing across the eastern United States. Used to make essential oils and fragrant sachets, northern spicebush also provides food for over 20 species of birds. Historically Native Americans used the fruits of the northern spicebush for food and the leaves for tea. Northern spicebush can reach up to 9 feet in height. Its thin leaves reach up to 14 centimeters long, and the flowers appear in clusters of yellow. The shiny red berries are 6 millimeters long and single seeded. The name, spicebush, refers to the spicy fragrance of the stems and leaves when they become bruised.

Step 1

Prune northern spicebush at the end of fall and after a majority of the leaves and berries have dropped. This process will ensure strong growth the following growing season.

Step 2

Prune back the northern spicebush with pruning shears, which can make sharp cuts up to ¾ inches in diameter. Thin back the shrub by cutting off frail and broken branches to their point of origin. Thinning produces a more open shrub, emphasizes the branch's internal structure and strengthens the plant.

Step 3

Cut off all side branches that are gnarled and crossing each other. Remove pest-infested or diseased stems by cutting off the entire branch. This will evade a full contamination of the shrub.

Step 4

Prune to one main branch or stem, and cut off any competing twigs on young northern spicebush shrubs. This will free up needed nutrients to the central branch and create a stronger plant. Remove any suckers, or small vigorous shoots sprouting up from the root or stem of the shrub as soon as they become noticeable.

Tips and Warnings

  • Remember to wear gardening gloves to prevent cuts when using pruning shears.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning shears


  • Northern Spicebush Plant Guide: USDA
  • Texas A&M University Extension
Keywords: pruning northern spicebush, cutting northern spicebush, northern spicebush

About this Author

Callie Barber is a writer and photographer in North Carolina. Her work has appeared in Forbes and Automotive News magazine. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in international studies from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.