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How to Prune Leatherleaf

By Alexis Lawrence ; Updated September 21, 2017

Leatherleaf mahonia is a plant that is native to China, but is commonly grown in the southern United States. The evergreen shrub has leaves that resemble holly that grow outward in horizontal layers, as well as tall vertical branches. It blooms with both fruit and flowers. The grape-like berry clusters emerge green in late spring to summer, then turn dark blue. Yellow flowers appear in late winter and stay through early spring. Occasional pruning will keep Leatherleaf mahonia looking its best.

Prune Leatherleaf right after the plant flowers. The buds for the following season’s flowers are produced in late summer. If you prune the Leatherleaf after the buds have been produced, your Leatherleaf will fail to bloom during the following season.

Remove broken branches and cut away faded flowers. By removing the heads of dying flowers with pruning shears, the growth of newer, more vibrant flowers will be encouraged. Depending on the thickness of the branch, you may be able to remove a broken branch with shears or it may require a pruning saw.

Cut away the tallest stems in the spring. The tallest stems will be the oldest stems. Pruning them away will allow new stems to grow from the base of the plant. Trim all the way back to the base of the plant when you are remove stems.

Trim away some of the leaves. If left alone to grow, a Leatherleaf plant will become thick with leaves. Removing leaves around the circumference in between the layers of branches emphasizes the layered look of your Leatherleaf.

Cut the Leatherleaf to the ground if the plant is damaged by a freeze. It may be obvious that the Leatherleaf has been damaged by a winter freeze, or it may not be apparent until the following spring when the plant fails to bloom. That doesn’t mean the plant is dead. You can rescue it by trimming it all the way back down to the ground and covering the roots with soil. The Leatherleaf should regrow.

Do as little or as much pruning as you want to, whenever you feel that it needs it, in order to achieve the perfect look. Leatherleaf doesn’t require any pruning at all to continue successfully growing. Most Leatherleaf pruning is done for the sole purpose of making the plant more attractive.


Things You Will Need

  • Pruning shears
  • Pruning saw

About the Author


Alexis Lawrence is a freelance writer, filmmaker and photographer with extensive experience in digital video, book publishing and graphic design. An avid traveler, Lawrence has visited at least 10 cities on each inhabitable continent. She has attended several universities and holds a Bachelor of Science in English.