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How To Cut Back Oregon Grape Holly: 8 Steps

How To Cut Back Oregon Grape Holly: 8 Steps

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Oregon grape holly is a beautiful plant that requires little attention and survives in relatively tough conditions, so it’s perfect for growing in your garden. However, it sometimes needs pruning to limit the growth of suckers and remove excess branches. 

To cut back Oregon grape holly, gather your tools and lay out a tarp for cleanup. Remove unwanted growth and trim old or large stems to the ground. Then trim the rest as you wish, minding the new buds. You’ll want to trim your Oregon grape holly in early spring to allow for healthy growth.

In the rest of this article, I’ll explain every step I mentioned above and provide additional tips to help you properly cut back Oregon grape holly.

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1. Cut Back Oregon Grape Holly Before Spring Ends

Cutting back your Oregon grape holly at the right time makes it easier for the plant to grow denser and healthier.

It’s best to prune your Oregon grape holly before the growth period, in late winter or early spring. This way, the plant will grow quickly in summer, when its growth is most significant. 

However, you want to wait until the shrub is done blooming to trim it.

2. Choose the Best Approach To Remove the Dead Parts

Eliminating the dead wood in your Oregon grape holly will make room for new and healthy branches. You could either trim the plant down to the ground all at once or prune it a little at a time over the next three years. 

But trimming it down to the ground is only necessary if your plant has a significant amount of dead parts. Otherwise, trimming a bit at a time over three years should be sufficient.

3. Gather the Tools You’ll Need 

Depending on what you want to cut back, you may need a few different tools for pruning your Oregon grape holly. Here are some basic things you might need:

  • Gardening gloves
  • Tarp or another type of cover
  • Hand shears
  • Loppers 
  • Pruning saw

You don’t need to have all the tools on the list, as what you need depends on the approach you settled on and the parts you are cutting back. 

For example, shears can do the job well enough if you plan to thin the shrub out. You can also use the pruning saw if you’re dealing with thicker stems that might be hard to cut using other tools. 

4. Collect the Yard Waste With a Tarp

Laying out a tarp helps you easily collect the waste you generate while pruning. Without a tarp, cleaning up after you’re done pruning will be more difficult as you must manually collect the waste. If you don’t have a tarp, use any other material you feel would do the job well. 

5. Remove Any Unwanted Suckers

The Oregon grape holly tends to develop suckers, which grow at the base of the plant’s stem. Suckers are mostly undesirable because they use up a significant portion of your plant’s resources and energy, resulting in the main stem being unhealthy because it’s not getting enough nutrients. 

If your Oregon grape holly has unwanted suckers, start the pruning process by removing them. 

You can grab them with your hands and twist them off the stem. However, the easiest and most aesthetically pleasing way is to cut them off, using loppers or shears, always careful not to damage the rest of the plant.

You can take a proactive approach to unwanted suckers by removing any stems where you don’t want suckers to grow. 

6. Prune the Rest of the Plant 

Once you eliminate unwanted suckers, trim the tips of the stems as you see fit while protecting any new buds. Cut a few millimeters with shears above the bud to encourage it to grow. 

You should also cut the stems at an angle, with the cut slanting away from the bud.

If you’re pruning an old or overgrown plant, cut the stems to the ground to encourage new healthy stems to grow (source), and if the wood is particularly thick, use a pruning saw.

Make sure to thin the Oregon grape shrub a bit to encourage growth, keeping it as tall as you wish.

Don’t be afraid to cut back whole stems. If the shrub is too dense or some branches are overgrown, it’s better to cut the entire branch before it becomes even more difficult to handle when you attempt to prune it the next year.

Still, avoid cutting off more than a quarter of the stems in one year, as there’s a chance the plant will not sprout back after severe pruning. If you have a tall Oregon shrub and a small space, you’re better off planting a shorter variety instead of cutting back to make the shrub fit in a restricted space. 

After cutting back your Oregon grape holly, inspect the plant to see if there’s any additional work you need to do. See if there’s any sucker that escaped your attention the first time or a branch that needs a bit more trimming. 

If you’re satisfied with the result, your job is done.

7. Prune Your Oregon Grape Holly Yearly

Pruning your Oregon grape holly annually keeps it healthy and dense, especially if you prune it in early spring or later winter. It also helps you shape the plant as desired, significantly improving its aesthetic appeal. 

Final Thoughts

Oregon grape holly doesn’t require much maintenance. However, sometimes it might become overgrown or too old, so you need to cut it back to encourage it to grow healthily. When your grape holly becomes overgrown, especially after years of no maintenance, it might become an eyesore. 

It will also be difficult to handle when you get around to pruning it. You might be tempted to cut it back to a stump, yet there’s no guarantee that it will sprout again after such severe interference. 

For the best results, prune it annually. 

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Willie Moore
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