I’m in Toronto. I have a big, old enormous that grows like a vine up a front porch brick column. I gets plenty of water and sun and grows so vigorously that I’ve been pruning it twice a year. I often wondered why it doesn’t have the orange “berries” on it in the fall like some eponymous do… until a few appeared this year. My question is… have I, by pruning twice a year been cutting off the little flowers thereby pre-empting any chance of berries? How should I prune next year to ensure it is covered in them come late fall? Should I hard prune in the spring and then just let it go all summer? Then maybe prune back in the late fall when I see what has berries and what doesn’t?
Love to know your thoughts. Thanks for your time.
Pruning trees and shrubs can cause some angst as to when to prune, how much to cut off and where do I make the cuts? These are all good questions and in your case, they are all applicable.
Euonymus plants can be allowed to follow their natural growth habit and become vines or they can be pruned on a regular basis to maintain a smaller more compact shrub like form. Euonymus bloom in the spring, usually April. The flowers are fairly unspectacular and can easily be overlooked.
Here lies the dilemma.
If you want your vine to produce fruit, berries in the fall, then you have to let the flowers become pollinated and not prune them out. Spring blooming shrubs flower on old wood which means the flower buds are set the growing season before.
If you want to control the size of a vigorously growing vine then you need to prune and the best time to do this for Euonymus is in the spring but this would mean a loss of the flower buds.
So, here is the solution.
After flowering in the late spring/early summer, cut back one third of the plant making sure you don’t take any more than this. This will leave you with two thirds of the plant for potentially pollinated flowers and fall berries. This pruning can be quite hard, cutting back bigger branches to a point just above a bud/node or just above a smaller lateral branch. Do not be tempted to: 1. Give the plant an overall trim or, 2. Take up the pruners again in the fall.
If you do this pruning every year, taking out only one third of the plant, you should be able to keep the vine under control or even rejuvenate it into a more compact manageable size & shape, and get berries in the fall. The birds will thank you as they rely on wild berries through the late fall and winter.
Make sure your pruning shears are clean and sharp for the best results.
Also, if you want to increase the number of pollinators in your garden, plant some spring flowering perennials and bulbs.
Hope this helps.