When Should You Cut Back Hawthorn Trees?

Hawthorn trees make a great addition to your landscape due to the beautiful blooms they produce and the ample shade they provide. But did you know that if you don't prune them correctly, it could prevent them from blooming next season? So when, and how, should you prune a hawthorn tree? For your convenience, we've put together the proper way to do this.

Hawthorn trees should be pruned when their growth is dormant. This usually happens during the winter. Hawthorn trees also don't need a lot of pruning; you should only prune them enough to keep them looking neat.

Should you wait a few years to prune them or let them grow a while? And how do you know exactly when to prune them? What branches should you remove? We'll answer all of these questions and more in this guide to pruning hawthorn trees. Continue reading to learn more.

A perfectly detailed Hawthorn blossom photographed on the garden, When Should You Cut Back Hawthorn Trees?

Some Background Information On Hawthorn Trees

Hawthorn trees are popular for use in home landscaping. The trees produce beautiful blooms that are typically white in color, although some varieties produce pink flowers. They bloom in spring, and the flowers turn into berries during the fall. The berries are actually edible by both animals and humans alike; they're a favorite food source for birds.

A beautiful blooming Hawthorn blossom photographed on the garden

Hawthorn trees need to be planted in full sun in order to grow and produce flowers. They also like well-draining soil. Hawthorn trees can survive dry periods without much rainfall, but this may affect their ability to produce flowers. Over-pruning them can also cause them not to bloom.

When Should You Prune Hawthorn Trees?

Before we discuss when the best time to prune a hawthorn tree is, it's important to note when you shouldn't prune one. Never prune a hawthorn tree before it has a chance to become established. For the overall look and well-being of the tree, it's best to wait until it is around 5 to 6 feet tall. 

Now that you know when you shouldn't prune hawthorn trees, we can talk about when you should. The best time to prune a hawthorn tree is during the winter after the tree has gone dormant. Dormancy is essentially a period of sleeping where the tree doesn't produce any new growth.

Pruning in the winter will encourage new blooms when spring comes back around. Of course, this is only if you don't prune it too much. At the very latest, you can prune a hawthorn tree in early spring, but it may affect how many flowers the tree produces.

How To Prune A Hawthorn Tree

Before you start pruning, remember that hawthorn trees do have thorns on them. It's important to use the proper tools, or you could end up with scratches on you. It's a good idea to wear long sleeves and gloves when pruning to avoid this. You will also need pruning shears, loppers, and maybe even a pruning saw for larger branches.

Click here to see this 3-pack of gardening gloves on Amazon. 

Click here to see these pruning shears on Amazon.

Remove Dead Or Diseased Branches

If you don't remove any other branches on the tree, you should remove the dead or diseased branches first. Doing so will improve the look of the tree and is also beneficial for the tree's health. Hawthorn trees are susceptible to many types of insects and diseases, including scale, mites, aphids, fire blight, and leaf spots.

Treating the trees with a fungicide or insecticide throughout the year will help to prevent disease. But if you prefer not to use those chemicals, then it's important to remove the diseased branches before the damage can spread to the rest of the tree. When you remove branches, you should cut them off just outside of where they attach to the tree's trunk. This area is called the branch collar. 

Remove Any Offshoots Or Sprouts

The next thing you should remove is any offshoots or sprouts growing near the tree base. New sprouts have no benefits for the established tree and can actually take some of the nutrients away from it as well as interfere with the tree's growth. Usually, these are small enough that they can be removed with pruning shears if you catch them quickly enough.

Remove Any Crowded Or Low Branches

Finally, remove any branches that are crowded or that you feel are hanging too low. Crowded branches can look messy and may affect the production of those particular branches. You don't have to remove every single branch in a crowded area, though. Just remove the ones you feel would look best or hinder the growth of other branches.

If there are any branches that you don't like because they are too low, you can trim them off as well without affecting the flower production. But for best results, just trim off one or two lower branches per year for a few years to help the tree maintain a good shape.

How Often Should You Prune A Hawthorn Tree?

The gorgeous white colored flowers of the Hawthorn blossom three photographed in the garden

For young but well-established trees, you may need to prune them once yearly in order to help guide them into a specific shape that you want. But when hawthorn trees start to get older, you may want to only prune them every three years or so once the branches have had time to grow and begin to lose their shape.

Of course, if you notice any dead branches or branches that are showing signs of disease, you should remove those branches as soon as you notice them. Then, apply a fungicide or insecticide in order to prevent the disease from spreading to more parts of the tree. New sprouts and offshoots should also be removed yearly. 

When To Prune Hawthorn Bushes?

Hawthorn bushes don't need a lot of pruning. Of course, you can remove dead or diseased branches, but otherwise, you may only wish to prune them for the purpose of thinning them out.  Hawthorn bushes like Indian hawthorn usually don't bloom until summer, so you can wait until early spring if you want to prune it heavily. You should still see flowers in the summer.

How Do You Prune An Overgrown Hawthorn?

First, you should remove dead or diseased branches near the branch collar if they are attached to the trunk. Next, remove any branches that cross over other branches. Then, remove any lower branches, especially those that could be brushed up against by people or other objects. Finally, cut off any branches that are taller than the other branches near them.

Can You Keep A Hawthorn Tree Small?

Hawthorns can grow as much as 30 feet tall and 30 feet wide. Some people choose to keep them small so that they don't take up too much space and are easier to care for. Here's how to keep a hawthorn tree small:

  1. Remove dead or diseased branches or branches that cross over another branch.
  2. Cut the older and thicker branches off to reduce height and width.
  3. Remove about ⅓ of the remaining branches, such as side branches that are growing near large branches. 
  4. Cut back other side branches to about ¼ of an inch above a bud. These are typically smaller side branches that are growing out of larger side branches.
  5. You may need to prune this way once a year until the tree is the desired size.

See more: "11 Beautiful Trees Under 10 Feet."

Can You Top A Hawthorn Tree?

Topping a hawthorn tree is not a good idea. Trees grow taller from the top, not the bottom. If you cut off the growth at the top, it will force the tree to grow outward instead of taller. This can lower the tree's visual appeal and make it more susceptible to pests and diseases.

Topping a tree also exposes more branches to sunlight and rain, which can cause rotting or cracking. The bottom line is that topping any kind of tree is not a good idea because it can decrease both the beauty and the health of the tree.

How Far Back Can You Cut Indian Hawthorn?

Cutting back an Indian hawthorn is really only necessary if it grows too large for the space it is in. If you do want to cut it back, it's best to wait until after it flowers. To thin it out, cut back the longer branches to the point at which they join with another branch. Prune it regularly to maintain the shape you want it to have.

In Closing

We hope you found this guide helpful for pruning back hawthorn trees. Remember that over-pruning or pruning too late can prevent them from flowering. It's best to prune during winter or early spring at the latest and remove only branches that are causing a problem. Thanks for reading!

Looking for more tips for keeping your landscape trim? See more: "How And When To Prune Pine Trees."

One comment

  1. High!
    I have a Hawthorn Tree that is only 2 years old. A high windstorm broke out the top and now I have 6 tall straight branches going straight up about five feet. Should I let them the go or trim them off. I have been thinking that they may be an attempt to become a new main top. What would you recommend that I do?

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