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How to Prune Smooth Sumac

By Paula Ezop ; Updated September 21, 2017

The smooth sumac is a deciduous spreading shrub, which is native to all 48 contiguous states. This shrub can reach a height of 20 feet with a spread of 15 to 20 feet. It blooms May through July with creamy yellow flowers, which then produce bright red berries. Perhaps the most striking element of this shrub is its bright red foliage in the fall.

Required pruning will be to remove any diseased or damaged branches, to maintain its place within your landscape design, and to remove suckers. The pruning tools that you use will be determined by the size of the branch, and its location.

Cut off any damaged or diseased branch as soon as possible. Always make a clean cut. This can be done at any time of the year to keep the sumac healthy.

Prune any branches that are interfering with other elements of your landscape. Since this is a flowering shrub, it should be pruned in the spring after it has bloomed and before any new growth appears. Blossoms appear on old wood from the previous year's growth.

Remove suckers as soon as you see them. The best way to do this is with your shovel. Make your cut with your shovel between the main stem of the shrub and the sucker; you want to remove the rhizome so pull the sucker upwards and away. If you do not remove the entire rhizome, it will just send up another shoot.


Things You Will Need

  • Hand pruning shears
  • Lopping shears
  • Pole pruner
  • Tree saw
  • Shovel

About the Author


Paula M. Ezop’s inspirational column "Following the Spiritual Soul" appeared in "Oconee Today," a Scripps Howard publication. She has published her first book, "SPIRITUALITY for Mommies," and her children's chapter book, "The Adventures of Penelope Star," will be published by Wiggles Press. Ezop has a Bachelor of Arts degree from Northeastern Illinois University and has been writing for 10 years.