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How to Prune Fragrant Sumac

Known for its lemony scent, fragrant sumac is a native Midwestern plant that blooms in early spring with greenish-yellow flowers and bright red and orange fruits in late summer and fall. The sumac has dense branches that reach a height of up to 8 feet and a width of up to 10 feet. Fragrant sumacs grow best in hot, dry climates and are so resilient that they are known to grow even in gravel. Like most maintenance of the fragrant sumac, pruning the plant is easy.

Prune a fragrant sumac in later winter. While a fragrant sumac can be pruned at any time during the year, in late winter the leaves and flowers fall away and the branches are more exposed. This makes it easier to see the structure of the sumac’s stems.

Choose approximately a third of the oldest, longest branches to prune away. Ridding the fragrant sumac of old, dying branches encourages new growth and will result in a fuller, healthier plant. When pruning branches, they should be cut all the way back down to the ground. Older branches will be thick, so a pruning saw will probably work the best. Try not to nick the surrounding branches.

Work with the natural structure of the stems. Select branches from all sides of the fragrant sumac. Try not to cut away too many branches on one side. This will cause your sumac to have a lopsided appearance.

Don’t cut more than 1/3 of the branches when pruning. If you cut too many branches away, your fragrant sumac will look bare, not only throughout the winter, but during the beginning of the new growing season as well. Trimming away about a third of the branches will keep the fragrant sumac looking full and natural even when it has lost some of its shoots. Once branches have been cut away, new offshoots will emerge at the location of the old branches during the next blooming season.

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