When to Prune a Burning Bush Shrub

The burning bush (Euonymus alatus) needs regular pruning to control its growth. The bush, which is hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 4 to 8, can grow 15 to 20 feet tall and 6 to 10 feet wide. Knowing when and how to prune your burning bush improves the growth, health and appearance of the bush.

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Pruning to Shape

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The burning bush needs regular pruning to maintain its shape and size since it can quickly outgrow its space. It is invasive in some areas. While you can prune the burning bush severely to create squares, rectangles or other geometric shapes, following the natural shape reduces the impact on flowering and overall health. Shaping starts when the burning bush is young. Prune during the dormant season late in the winter or early in the spring to control the shape. Cut out branches to create proper spacing and remove crossing branches.

Improving Plant Health

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Your burning bush may sometimes need pruning to improve the overall health of the plant. Remove any damage done by disease or insects as soon as you notice the damage, no matter what time of year. Removing the affected areas of the shrub can prevent further damage and spread of the disease or insect infestation.

Rejuvenation Pruning

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If your burning bush is out of control or hasn't been taken care of, the branches may become leggy or scraggly. The bush can also completely overtake the space. You might also notice the stems getting thick. Address these problems with a renewal or rejuvenation pruning late in the dormant season before the shrub starts growing leaves. One option is to cut about one-third of the branches to the ground each year in late winter. Each year cut out another one-third of the older branches. Another option is to cut all of the branches down to about 6 to 12 inches above the ground. This option takes longer for the plant to recover.

Pruning Tips

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No matter why you prune, you'll need certain tools to do the job correctly. Pruning shears work for pruning as long as the burning bush branches are 3/4 inch or less. If the branches are larger, lopping shears work better. Disinfect the pruning tools with denatured alcohol after pruning your burning bush, especially if the reason is to remove diseased branches. Make diagonal cuts on the branches using a sharp pruning tool. Dull blades make the cuts difficult.