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How to cut back overgrown pyracantha bushes

I am a Friend of our local park and volunteer regularly.  At our entrance we have several pyracantha bushes that have never been looked after or pruned.  At the moment they’re showing signs of berries forming.  Should I wait until all the berries are over before cutting them back because we have lots of birds and I’m sure they will need these berries during the winter.  Also could you please advise how far back we should cut the bushes.  They’re currently rather wild and we would like to make that area of garden looking nice as it’s the first thing you see as you enter the park.  My thought would be to cut them back very hard after the berries have gone and let the Spring bulbs around them stand out.  I would love to hear your views.  Thanks in advance.


  • RedwingRedwing SussexPosts: 1,233
    edited 28 June
    marianp said:
      My thought would be to cut them back very hard after the berries have gone and let the Spring bulbs around them stand out.  I would love to hear your views.  Thanks in advance.
    That would work.  I prune mine after the birds have had the berries. Just make sure you cut back to shoots and branches with leaves; I'm not sure how good pyracantha is at sprouting from bare branches.
    Based in Sussex, I garden to encourage as many birds to my garden as possible.
  • marianpmarianp Posts: 5
    Thank you, that is what I thought would work well 
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 5,952
    Hello and welcome 😊 

    The good news is pyracantha can be cut back as hard as you like, the harder the better really, as it will come back with softer, greener growth that is much easier to whizz over with a hedge cutter in future. Cut farther back than the height/width you ultimately want as you want that softer new coat of growth to trim in future, not tough old stems.

    The bad news is, it’s a horrible job as those thorns are really, really viscous! Make sure you wear tough boots, strong leather gauntlets and old clothing.

    I tend to cut mine in early spring when all the berries have gone and as it’s waking up into new growth. It still has time to green up and develop flowers for the following year’s berries, but it will be the older growth that mostly produces berries and there is inevitably some loss of the. with annual trimming.
  • marianpmarianp Posts: 5
    Fantastic, thank you
  • KeenOnGreenKeenOnGreen Posts: 1,672
    We have a large Pyracantha hedge, and cut it back to bare branches a couple of times a year (but only about 15-20% of it is cut back to bare wood each time). It always bounces back. I wouldn't cut the whole thing back to bare branches in one go though. 

    If a really severe pruning is required, I would do it over 2-3 trimmings. Perhaps half now, and another pruning in late Autumn, but before any frosts. 
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,062
    edited 28 June
    The berries will certainly provide food for birds and the flowers produce nectar and pollen for insects and birds but they are produced on wood made the previous season so if you cut it all back hard there will be neither flowers nor berries next year.  Another thing to bear in mind is that some birds and small mammals nest in and around pyracantha so it should not be pruned before the 15th of August when young birds should all have fledged.

    In order to have flowers next year I suggest you cut out one in three stems right to the base and then just shorten the rest to reasonable length.  As you work you will be able to spot any dead or damaged stems and crossing stems that are rubbing each other and take those back to the base too.

    Repeat the one third pruning back to the base every year, taking out the oldest stems each time and you will have a completely renewed and vigorous group of plants that are covered in flowers and berries.  Give a good mulch of composted material in autumn - after a good rainfall - and a handful of slow release fertiliser such as pelleted chicken manure in spring and they will stay healthy.

    You will need a good thick pair of gloves and strong clothing to protect yourself from the thorns and some clean, sharp secateurs and loppers to do the cutting, maybe a pruning saw too.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • NollieNollie Girona, Catalunya, Northen Spain.Posts: 5,952
    ^ a more thoughtful approach to the one I took when I first tackled my overgrown hedge! I cut the whole lot down by half it’s height and a third of it’s width. I felt the loss of berries the following year was worth it to get it in shape and it has been healthier and easier to deal with since. I think it depends on what else you have there to keep the birds going. I’m surrounded by wild forest with lots of food and cover and there are always lots of pyracantha berries left over at the end of winter.
  • marianpmarianp Posts: 5
    Thank you all for your helpful comments.  Much appreciated.  It’s a very large park but quite a smallish little garden at the entrance.  There is also lots of wildlife too.  I fill bird feeders regularly in a wooded area that I call the bird sanctuary.  It isn’t really, just my little feeding station. After reading all these comments I think as we have so many pyracanthas we could cut back every other plant so that the uncut plants can produce berries/flowers while the others are regrowing.  Maybe do a small trim on the uncut ones.  Does that make sense.
  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 28,062
    If you do it that way you will end up with yet another and more densely tangled mass of branches that will be hard to maintain in future.

    I would do the job properly, as outlined above but it's up to you.   You have until August 15th to decide either way as you may not disturb nesting birds before then.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • marianpmarianp Posts: 5
    Thank you 
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