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How to Prune a European Cranberry Bush

The European cranberry bush (Viburnum opulus) is a deciduous multi-stem shrub. The species grow 10 feet tall and wide. Dwarf varieties grow 1 to 3 feet tall, compact varieties grow 5 to 6 feet tall, and large varieties grow 10 to 13 feet tall. European cranberry bushes have an upright form, but larger varieties tend to spread with age. They are used as specimens, in groups and in hedges. European cranberry bushes bloom in late spring to early summer with white flowers. Red berries follow in early fall. Some varieties have yellow berries. You can prune European cranberry bushes immediately after flowering, which will decrease the number of berries, or after the fruit falls from the bush in early winter.

Use hand pruners for limbs up to ½ inch in diameter and lopping shears for larger limbs. Make cuts at a 30-degree angle at a bud or joint. Use hedging shears to shape plants used in a hedge.

Thin out old and weak limbs by cutting them at ground level with hand pruners or lopping shears. This increases air circulation and encourages new growth.

Remove damaged, dead or diseased limbs with lopping shears or hand pruners. Signs of disease include cankers, slimy spots in the bark, split wood, or dead or dying leaves.

Prune limbs that are rubbing or crossed with hand pruners or lopping shears to prevent future damage to involved limbs.

Trim any elongated or drooping limbs that spoil the shape of the shrub with lopping shears or hand pruners. Cut these limbs back to the first bud or joint within the main part of the foliage.

Use hedge pruners to shear bushes that are part of a hedge. Trim the foliage back evenly and smoothly to maintain the desired shape and form of the bush and hedge.


Remove debris from around shrubs. Destroy diseased and dead trimmings to prevent the spread of infection. Shred and compost healthy green trimmings. The berries of the species European cranberry bushes are edible, but have a bitter, acidic taste. Varieties of the European cranberry bushes have a better taste than the species.

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