The Q&A Archives: Pruning California Pepper Trees

Question: I am kind of new at gardening. I have two California Pepper Trees that are just now two years old and look to be doing great. They are 8 1/2 or 9 Feet tall and have branches that brush the ground. Is this normal for this stage of the tree growth? What I need to know is do I trim the lower branches dusting the ground or leave them alone? The trunk looks sturdy and strong, but will trimming help or hurt the tree overall? Any advice will be greatly appreciated. A novice gardener.

Answer: Your California Pepper Tree is Schinus, with fast growth to 25'-40' high. The trunks of old trees are gnarled with knots and burls, giving it character. It has a spreading nature and looks more like a shrub than a tree in youth. Some of the lowest branches will drop off as the tree grows, but you can help it along by cutting off those that touch the ground. Then, to keep the trunk uncluttered, rub out any new buds (potential new branches) that develop along the trunk. Many gardeners use Schinus as hedging, rather than trees, because of their bushy habit. Ultimately the choice to remove or leave the lowest limbs is up to you. The tree takes well to pruning and thrives in poor soils with little attention, so cutting back unwanted growth will not harm it.

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