How to prune hawthorn tree

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.

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.

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?

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."

Pruning an Overgrown Washington Hawthorn | Home Guides

By Patricia H. Reed

Whether with its white blossoms in spring, coppery foliage in fall or the scarlet berries that attract birds all winter, Washington hawthorn (Crataegus phaenopyrum) is a small tree that can brighten your home's landscape year-round. Growing to 25 to 30 feet tall, Washington hawthorn is recommended in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 4 through 8. Pruning is key in keeping the multitrunked specimen looking neat and healthy. Prune an overgrown Washington hawthorn while the tree is dormant in late winter to encourage new flower and berry production and so you won't be surprised by the 3-inch thorns that protect the tree's trunk and branches.

  1. Clean pruning tools with a rag dipped in rubbing alcohol to remove any traces of plant disease or fungi from plants previously pruned with the tools.

  2. Put on clothing to protect your arms and legs, heavy work gloves and protective eyewear to avoid injury from the tree's thorns.

  3. Remove any dead or broken branches back flush to where they grew from a larger branch or cut to the branch collar for branches from the main trunk. The branch collar is a ridge at the base of the branch on the trunk. Use loppers for small branches and a pruning saw for larger limbs. Cut a large limb off about 10 inches from the trunk, cutting halfway through the bottom of the branch, then halfway through the top of the branch, an inch or so farther from the trunk than the first cut. With the length of the limb removed, cut close to the branch collar, with the bottom of the cut angling slightly out from the trunk and the top of the cut flush with the branch collar to help the wound shed water while it heals over.

  4. Cut off any crossing branches or upright water sprouts from the interior or base of the tree. Hawthorns have a tendency to put up many sprouts when they have been overwatered, and removing them opens up the center of the tree, improving air circulation to prevent diseases like powdery mildew and entomosporium leaf spot, which often affect the species.

  5. Prune away lower limbs to the branch collar to create a single-trunked tree or to raise the lowest branches of the tree to avoid injuries from thorns when the tree is planted near a sidewalk or other high-traffic area.

  6. Cut select too-tall branches of an overgrown Washington hawthorn back to a main branch or to the trunk. Avoid cutting off the ends of all the branches above a certain height -- called topping -- or you end up with many shoots springing up taller than ever from the sites of the cuts.

  7. Monitor the tree for signs of fire blight during the growing season. Washington hawthorn is prone to the disease, which causes the ends of twigs to die back, blacken and droop.

  8. Cut diseased branches back at least 12 inches past the blackened area to 1/4 inch above a growing bud pointed in the direction you want new growth to grow. Clean your pruning tools as in Step 1 between each cut.


  • California Master Gardener Handbook; Dennis Pittenger
  • University of California Integrated Pest Management: Hawthorn -- Crataegus Spp. Family Rosaceae (Rose Family)
  • The Garden Revival Expert; D.G. Hessayon


  • Remove all clippings and fallen leaves and fruit from the base of the Washington hawthorn to keep fungi and insects from spreading.


  • While many overgrown or neglected shrubs or small trees can be rejuvenated by cutting them back drastically, hawthorns do not respond to this treatment.

Writer Bio

Patricia Hamilton Reed has written professionally since 1987. Reed was editor of the "Grand Ledge Independent" weekly newspaper and a Capitol Hill reporter for the national newsletter "Corporate & Foundation Grants Alert. " She has a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from Michigan State University, is an avid gardener and volunteers at her local botanical garden.

Pruning hawthorn in autumn - how to prune a bush (photo, video)

Hawthorn is both a fruit and ornamental crop that can be grown as a bush or tree. And in order for it to bear fruit well and not lose its decorative effect, it must be properly looked after. Regular pruning is also a must for the plant. This procedure is carried out in spring or autumn, choosing the right time for this.


  • Plant pruning methods
  • How and when to prune shrubs
  • Creating a hedge
  • Hawthorn: video

How to prune a plant

Hawthorn is one of those plants that grow strongly in a fairly short period of time. If it is not cut annually, the crown thickens and is less ventilated. It begins to bear fruit poorly, and the overgrown bush itself loses its beauty, becomes overly sprawling, untidy in appearance.

Attention! When pruning a hawthorn, diseased, broken and dry branches must be removed, as they not only spoil the appearance of the plant, but also inhibit its growth.

Shrubs can be pruned in many ways. It can be:

  • sanitary - dried, broken, diseased and pest-damaged branches are removed;
  • restoring - used for mechanical damage to the hawthorn crown, as well as in the case when the plant froze in winter;

  • rejuvenating - used for mature plants when their growth is already suspended;
  • to improve fruiting - part of the old branches are removed to allow new shoots to grow.

Regulatory pruning also available for hawthorn. It is carried out to renew fruit formations and the overall growth of the plant.

How and at what time is it better to prune shrubs

Hawthorn tolerates a haircut well, without it it grows chaotically and becomes unpresentable in appearance. But you can’t delete any branches, you need to know the purpose of each of them. And thinning hawthorn pruning is of key importance so that its crown is well ventilated and illuminated by the sun. Sick and dried branches must be removed. Twin shoots and branches that have begun to grow inside the crown are also removed.

The formation of a bush is often carried out in 3-4 of the most durable trunks, on which numerous shoots are subsequently formed. Strong branches can be shortened by a third, which will contribute to the formation of many young side shoots. As for the hawthorn crown, it can be shaped to your taste. It can be practically any:

  • spherical;
  • trapezoid;

  • pyramid;
  • square;
  • rectangular.

Hawthorn can be pruned once or twice a year. Removal of dry, damaged and pest-affected branches is best done in the autumn to prepare the plant for winter and avoid future diseases. Pruning to form a crown is carried out more often in the spring, but it must be remembered that this must be done before bud break.

Tip. In the spring, gardeners often do not have time to cut the bush in time, missing the deadline before the buds appear in the hawthorn. There is nothing wrong with this, this procedure can be safely transferred to the fall.

Creating a hedge

Many gardeners grow hawthorn as a solitary fruit or ornamental plant. Due to the fact that it grows quickly and has thorns, this culture is often used to create an impenetrable green hedge. And to make it thicker, young hawthorn bushes are often planted - 30-50 cm apart. To create a strong barrier, you can make such a fence in two rows. In this case, the bushes are placed in the ground in a checkerboard pattern, placing them at intervals of 60-70 cm, leaving about 50 cm between rows.

In order for the "green fence" of hawthorn to look beautiful, the plants definitely need regular shearing. Without this, the bushes will quickly stretch out, baring at the bottom, which will look extremely unattractive. In the year of planting, the hawthorn is cut 10-15 cm from the ground, and later it is sheared, depending on the condition of the plants and the desired height of the hedge. The shoots that appear can be intertwined with each other, then the fence will be even thicker and stronger. With strong growth, 2-3 pruning per year is possible. This will contribute to the growth of side shoots and the creation of an impenetrable barrier.

The crown of bushes planted in a row can be formed in different ways. For low hedges, a rectangle or trapezoid shape is more suitable. If a higher living wall is planned, then a spherical shape will also look beautiful near the crown.

Hawthorn is a rather unpretentious culture in care, but it still requires some attention. This is especially true for the trimming procedure. Single and hedge-planted hawthorn bushes should be pruned annually so that they not only bear better fruit, but also look neat and tidy. It will be easier to do this over time, you just need to adapt to the process itself.

Hawthorn: video

Recommendations of experimental gardeners in 2022 on the Gudgrint


  • The value of the procedure
  • varieties
  • Rules for the Carriage Rules for the Cacing

Among the popular garden plants with tasty and healthy fruits is the hawthorn, which can be increasingly found in summer cottages. However, the plant should be well monitored, and pruning a hawthorn bush in spring and autumn raises questions for novice gardeners.

Procedure value

Hawthorn is an unpretentious plant in care, so even a beginner in garden art can handle it. But everyone needs to know that this bush needs regular timely pruning. The significance of this operation is undeniable.

  • If this is not done, the bush will grow and take on a sloppy, unkempt appearance.
  • Timely formation of the crown stimulates the emergence of new young shoots.
  • A well cared for tree will have more fruit.

Therefore, one should not rely on the power of nature - it is better to prune and regulate the condition of the bush on your own.


Depending on the purpose of pruning a bush, it can be done at different times of the year.

  • In the spring, the most common procedure is crown formation, making it decorative and neat. The optimal period is the end of the first spring month and the beginning of the second, at which time the hawthorn has not yet woken up. The air temperature should be positive.
  • Pruning is carried out in autumn to remove old dead branches and diseased shoots. This will help prepare the plant for winter and destroy insect pests.


After the procedure, it is not recommended to treat the wound, natural healing is preferable for hawthorn.


Experts advise to prune the hawthorn bush twice a year, and if for some reason this is not possible, be sure to keep the spring procedure - you can do without the autumn one.

It is customary to distinguish the following types of pruning.

  • Rejuvenating. Helps to accelerate the growth of young shoots. It consists in removing old branches of a tree or bush - this will cause further growth of young shoots, crown renewal and an increase in yield and fruit quality.
  • Regulating. Allows you to renew fruit branches.
  • Sanitary. Removal of branches affected by diseases or pests. It is also carried out when dry or rotten branches appear. It is considered mandatory, otherwise the plant may die.
  • Recovery. Helps if the plant is frozen.
  • Thinning. It implies the removal of branches inside the crown, dry branches.
  • Decorative. The plant makes it possible to form a crown in the form of a ball or pyramid, so the owner can afford to experiment in the field of landscape design.

To increase the yield of the plant, it is customary to cut off the growing branches.


If the plant is used as a hedge, it must be severely pruned - no more than 1/3 of each of the shoots remains. Such bushes are pruned in the last weeks of spring and in the second half of summer.

Conduct Rules

In order to preserve the beautiful shape of the bush during the pruning process, it is recommended to adhere to the following tips.

  • Leave 5 to 7 main branches per plant.
  • Their height must be within 2 meters.
  • In the first year, all shoots are pruned at a height of 15 cm from the ground.
  • In the summer of the second year, the side branches can be slightly shortened, this will allow the plant to grow vigorously. And in early spring, they are removed almost to the base (it will be enough to leave about 2 cm).
  • Principal branches should be cut to about ½. It is also recommended to do this in the spring. In the summer, these branches are slightly trimmed.
  • In the third year, you should correct the shape of the formed bush with a pruner and maintain it throughout the season.

This way you can give the bush the desired appearance. However, when cutting the plant, it is important to ensure that its lower part does not remain bare and is also covered with branches. Only in this case can you get a uniformly lush crown.

What branches should be deleted?

  • Wild shoots.
  • Broken.
  • Sick or dry.
  • Too long.
  • Crossed.

Interestingly, if you wish, you can make a bush from a hawthorn tree, for this the trunk is cut off under a stump, which will very quickly become covered with dense growth. However, experienced gardeners do not recommend doing this, since the bush will be very prickly, which will greatly complicate the work of forming its crown.

Hedge Trimming Principles

Hawthorn is not only a useful plant with tasty fruits, but also an interesting element of landscape design. In particular, its use as a hedge is very popular. But in order for such a fence to look good, trimming will also be required, which can be of two options:

  • free;
  • formed.

With free form, it is essential to pinch off the shoots at the beginning of development, because if this is not done, the plants will tend to rise up, turning into unattractive sticks. And timely pruning in early spring (before the buds appear) will cause the bush to grow side branches and acquire a more decorative shape.

1 or 2 shoots should be left to form a hedge, this is done in the second year after planting the seedling. After that, the shoots will intertwine with each other, creating a hedge. The owner at this stage only needs to follow - when the "fence" reaches the required length and width, it is cut to save the selected formats.


If the plant has a high growth rate, it can be cut 2-3 times per season, but the last procedure should be carried out no later than the second week of July. The growth is cut to about ½ or 2/3 of the length.

To determine how to remove shoots, you need to focus on lateral branching: branches should be approximately equal in length so that they can more easily grow, creating a dense hedge. And in the place of the hedge where it is planned to create a passage, you can put a board during pruning and navigate along it in the length of the branches.

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