The Q&A Archives: How To Prune A New Zealand Tea Tree?

Question: When we bought our house a year ago, there were 3 very mature 5 ft. tall tea trees (leptospermum scoparium). They looked as if someone tried hedging them and had many open spots without branches, etc. Overall, they weren't very attractive. So, I decided to cut them down to only about 6 inches above the ground in hopes that they'll begin sprouting leaves again and can be left to be more natural shrubs. I just did this in July. What are the chances that they'll come back and how long should I wait before I dig up the root ball and plant something new?

Answer: You can wait and hope, but severe pruning can kill a plant. We generally recommend you not remove more than one-third of the live growth of any plant in any pruning session. The roots need the benefit of foliage for photosynthesis and taking off too much at one time can halt this process. Leptospermum usually won't produce new growth from bare wood, so it's never a good idea to prune them all the way down. In fact, when old shrubs become overgrown or bare at the base, they're usually limbed up into small trees. At this point you might want to seriously consider replacements for your tea trees.

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