Pruning Nandina

Most Nandina are fairly compact and have such a graceful, arching habit, you may be wondering, should I prune my Nandina? What if the Nandina is getting too tall? 

Well, if you’ve got the space for your chosen variety, you shouldn’t really need to prune your Nandina. If you do want to rein it in somewhat, you need to know the right way to cut back your Nandina. Nandina have a unique growth habit and won’t fill in below the pruning cut, so read on to find out how.


When to Prune Nandina

You may be wondering when you can prune your Nandina if it is overgrown. The ideal time to renew-prune (more on that below) Nandina is when dormant, in late winter or early spring before new growth begins. 

Once growth has started, it’s fine to take a branch or two for bouquets and arrangements during the growing season – cut to the ground or well beneath the fullest part of the shrub.

How to Prune Nandina

Step 1 – Get your hand pruners and ensure the blade is disinfected and sharp.

Step 2 – Evaluate the age and shape of the bush, and if known, the ultimate height when mature to determine if it will need pruning.

Step 3 – For overgrown, elderly shrubs, remove 1/3 of the canes all the way to the ground. Repeat this every winter for three years. This is called renewal pruning, and fosters full lush new growth throughout the plant, while keeping the shape natural.  The plant keeps growing, but does so with grace and beauty, making a lovely addition to your garden. If you have many canes to work with, you can also cut another 1/3 to 1/2 of the height, which will create an illusion of a rounder shape over time. Just know that it will sprout from the top, not below.

Step 4 – In younger shrubs, it’s all right to remove two or three of the tallest canes to the ground to keep the appearance lower (but no more than 1/3 of the plant’s total canes).  You can do the same for bouquets.  Nandinas grow only at their tips, so pruning there does not cause a fuller base like many plants you are used to. So, you want to avoid topping or shearing the plant, which will cause odd-looking growth. 


Why Prune Nandina

If you’ve chosen your variety well, and it’s the right height for your space, you may never need to prune your Nandina. 

But maybe your Nandina came with the house, and now is really overgrown and woody, with bare stems. Or maybe the plant is just a smidge too tall for the spot and is blocking a nice view behind it. In either of these cases, you can do a renewal pruning – either removing just one or two of the tallest canes, or cutting out up to 1/3 of the oldest, tallest canes to the base.


Another reason to prune would be to remove weak, broken, or crossing branches.

Lastly, you might want to steal some of the lovely white flowers, red fruit or dissected foliage for some arrangements for the table.  

Nandina Pruning Tips

  • Evaluate your space and if your Nandina needs pruning.
  • Using a hand-pruner, cut up to 1/3 of the canes all the way down to the soil level.
  • Prune in late winter or early spring. 
  • Nandinas sprout from the branch tips, so prune to the ground or in staggered sections below the main growth. 
  • If you have six canes, cut two of the branches to the ground, two to 1/3 of the shrub’s height, and up to 2/3 of the shrub’s height.
  • If you need to prune a rogue branch, or want to take some for cuttings, or bouquets, remove the branch to the ground.
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Author Erica Browne Grivas - Published 11-15-2021