The Power of Pruning

Pruning can change the look of so many plants, and that’s what makes it a great tool for creative gardeners. Here’s an example of how pruning can change the look of a plant to impart a different feel to the garden.

sumac shrub

The bright Tiger Eyes sumac contrasts with the red of the house in this foundation planting.

We have visited several gardens recently and many of them use the newish cultivar of sumac, First Editions® Tiger Eyes™ sumac. This green-gold cultivar is smaller than most sumacs as well as having a striking color that complements many other kinds of plantings. The first photo is from a garden that features many native plants. The gardener placed Tiger Eyes near the house in a foundation bed. In front of it is a perennial geranium that adds color during the spring and early summer. The sumac adds great color contrast to the red house and because it’s a smaller variety, it won’t take over the bed. No doubt the gardener does some pruning to keep it small, but she has maintained its basic shrub shape.

Tiger Eyes pruned

Pruned as a tree, the Tiger Eyes sumac blends beautifully into this Asian influenced pond garden.

Here’s an example of the same shrub used near a pond with an Asian feel. The stone pond has a small waterfall, and on one side of it sits this small sumac “tree.”  By pruning up the plant, the gardeners have created a completely different look. While a north woods plant, the sumac fits in perfectly with this Japanese-style garden. It’s bright color and tree-shape make it beautiful accent around the pond.

There are several good websites devoted to pruning (and Northern Gardener has covered the topic several times), but when in doubt give it a try. Most plants can take pruning of up to one-quarter of their branches without suffering unduly, and you may come up with a truly unusual look.



  1. Tammy Herron on June 17, 2020 at 9:17 pm

    I love the look of this plant, and have a limited area for growth. Can this plant be pruned each year to keep it at shorter height and width?

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