How to Prune Northern Bayberry
The northern bayberry is quite an interesting shrub. It is considered a deciduous to semi-evergreen plant. The bayberry's average height without pruning is 8 feet. What makes this medium shrub so interesting is that its dark green leaves are aromatic. The fruit which is approximately 1/8 inch in diameter has a hard waxy coating which is also aromatic. The aromatic fruit often remains on the plant until spring. Swallows, eastern meadowlarks, and red-bellied woodpeckers love the fruit of the northern bayberry.
Understand the reasons for pruning the northern bayberry. The reasons for pruning are to remove dead or dying branches, to initiate new growth, and to maintain shape or control size.
Prune any dead or diseased growth immediately. Dispose of the dead plant material; do not place it in your compost bin.
Remove one of the heavy canes at the ground level of the plant. This should be done in March or April. It will initiate new growth which will lead to a denser shrub.
Prune the northern bayberry in spring and fall to maintain its shape and size. Cut back any stray branches using the tool that is appropriate to the size of the branch to be cut.
Place the pruned plant material in your compost bin. You may want to dry, crush, and save the leaves from any pruned branches. Place them in a bowl, and enjoy their beautiful fragrance.
Bayberry bushes are tough, hardy plants that have pleasantly scented foliage and berries. Colonial Americans used the berries to add scent to candles for use during special occasions such as Christmas, since collecting and rendering the berries was a big job. Its oval leaves are dark green, waxy and grow to a length of one to four inches. Growing in poor, sandy or clay soils and in salty areas near the ocean, bayberry bushes are incredibly tolerant plants that can thrive in areas where many plants can not. They tend to grow in groups and make excellent windbreaks and hedges. Bayberry bushes are intolerant of other vegetation around them, so any plants that could be squeezed out by the vigorous, spreading bayberry should be moved or kept separate. As bayberry bushes age and grow bare at the base, they may require ruthless pruning of the main branches in the spring. Each waxy fruit of the bayberry contains quite a number of seeds that can be planted to produce more bayberry plants. In order for the seeds to germinate more quickly, the waxy coating needs to be scraped off. While not a bird's first berry choice because of the bitter taste, the fruits of the bayberry are an important food source for game birds like quail, pheasant and ruffed grouse, as well as migrating songbirds such as eastern bluebirds, thrushes, yellow-rumped warblers, tufted titmice and some additional 80 varieties of birds.
The free form of the northern bayberry is a wonderful element in your landscape design.