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Red chokeberry bushes require regular pruning to prevent overgrowth and the spread of diseases. These woody shrubs are prone to suckering, which is when tiny shoots grow from roots near the base of the bush. If you don’t prune your red chokeberry bush correctly, it can quickly take over the garden.
To prune a red chokeberry bush, remove all diseased or dead stems and wood, then cut as many of the suckers away from the base of the plant. Most red chokeberry bushes have excessive amounts of growth near the bottom that needs to be trimmed. You can also prune after the bush flowers.
In this article, we’ll break down the detailed instructions for pruning and maintaining your red chokeberry bush. We’ll also explain what tools and techniques you should employ for optimal results.
1. Red Chokeberry Pruning Preparation
Before trimming your red chokeberry bush, you should gather all of the necessary supplies. These materials include the following:
- Pruning shears
- Gardening gloves
- Gardening hose
- Compost bin or bucket (Optional)
Try Fiskars Gardening Shears (link to Amazon). These shears cut up to ⅝” (1.58 cm) stems, which is perfect for red chokeberry bushes.
They’re also thin enough to reach deep into the plant without knocking nearby stems, flowers, and twigs. The 100% steel construction ensures they withstand countless cuts without dulling, much unlike aluminum-bladed shears.
It’s best to prune your red chokeberry bush during the winter and spring (source). Winter pruning is all about thinning the dying twigs and stems, whereas spring pruning is geared towards promoting optimal growth for the flowers and berries.
Both pruning seasons are required to stop the bush from having poor production.
Always cut your red chokeberry bushes at a 45-degree angle. This angle provides numerous benefits to you and the plant, such as:
- There will be more exposed pith (the inner portion of the stem), which allows it to absorb water easier.
- Cutting at this angle allows you to prune deep into the bush without bending your hands, wrists, or shears.
- A 45-degree angle supports future plant growth, flowering, and more.
Once you have everything you need ready to go, it’s time to get started with the actual pruning.
2. Remove Diseased and Dead Wood
All red chokeberry bushes are prone to various plant diseases. If you don’t prune the diseased stems and woody portions of the bush, they’ll spread to other parts of the plant.
Remove all of the disease portions. Don’t worry; red chokeberry bushes are extremely resilient and can withstand a lot of pruning.
Next, get rid of all of the dead wood. Look for hollow tips and brittle wood, which are typical signs of decay. Much like diseased stems, dead wood can slowly crack and spread down to the roots.
Here’s a list of disease symptoms to look out for in your red chokeberry bushes:
- Black, speckled leaves and stems
- Large tumor-like growths growing from the stems and roots
- Blackened tips with no growth
- White fungal dust or slimy mildew
The vast majority of red chokeberry diseases are fungal. Fortunately, they can be clipped and removed to keep the plant healthy. Most of these diseases come from overwatering, underwatering, or nearby diseased plants.
If you can’t get rid of the diseased portions of your red chokeberry bush with pruning, try a fungal spray.
For instance, Natria Neem Oil Spray (link to Amazon) is an all-natural solution that removes and prevents fungal growth, diseases, and pests. It’s great for red chokeberry bushes because it doesn’t destroy fragile flowers or berries.
This spray can be applied directly to the berries without causing digestive issues, though it’s always good to wash your fruit before eating it.
3. Cut Near the Base of the Shrub To Prevent Overgrowth
Red chokeberry bushes are known for sprouting near the roots and trying to grow outward. It’s better to trim the base and taper it upward. This cutting pattern prevents suckers from growing, but it also allows the top of the plant to soak as much water as possible. Too much growth near the base of the bush will cause it to wilt.
When you cut near the base of a red chokeberry bush, there are two things you should keep in mind:
- Thriving old growth shouldn’t be removed because it’s the plant’s primary structural support system.
- Remove wilting flowers if they’re near the base because they’re unlikely to grow in time.
4. Prune the Shoots After Flowering
Cut away the shoots after they finish flowering. Not only will this promote airflow throughout the bush, but it also lets new stems grow in place of old ones.
You’ll likely need to prune your red chokeberry bush’s shoots starting in March. This process can last a few months, so it’s best to prune it every couple of weeks.
A lot of the older stems and wood shoots can be pruned close to the ground, but make sure the center structure stays the same. While red chokeberry bushes can grow after being heavily pruned, they might not be able to flower until the following year.
5. Prune the Suckers To Maintain the Roots
Suckers grow from the base of the red chokeberry bush. Not only do they consume the vital nutrients, oxygen, and moisture in the soil, but they also take over a lot of the garden.
You can remove the suckers and transplant them or let them grow freely if you don’t mind having a lot of bushes in the area.
The best way to prune suckers is to remove them by hand when you notice them coming out of the soil. If the sucker is well-established and rooted in the soil, you’ll have to use gardening shears to cut it out.
You can usually prune up to 1⁄3 of the red chokeberry bush to limit overgrowth while promoting flowering and abundant berries. Regular pruning will ensure your red chokeberry bush is in good condition throughout the year.
Remember to remove dead and diseased wood and cut near the base when pruning your red chokeberry.