Wait 3-5 years before first pruning. Patience makes the most beautiful plants.
Prune when the weather is dry and sunny – usually in summer.
Do not prune when the manzanita is flowering or about to flower.
Clean your tools thoroughly before making the first cut and again between each plant. There is a caveat to this; if your manzanita has had branches which have mysteriously and suddenly died, then extra care needs to be taken and your tools should be cleaned after every single cut.
Know your cardinal directions! Never expose the bark to the harshest sun of the day especially in summer.
Use the appropriate size tool for each cut. Never twist your pruners. If you need to use two hands with the hand pruners, then you need to switch to the lopper.
Make as few cuts as possible.
Remember that the more mature an upright manzanita is, the shorter the leafy section at the end of the branches.
Trimming is cutting in the outer half of this leafy part – in order to keep the plant a little smaller, neater, and fuller [with foliage]. Use either hand pruners or hedge shears for this part. If you make cuts in the non-leafy section of the branch, that branch will die. So remove the branch entirely.
Branch removal is the most critical part. If a branch is growing where you don’t want it, remove it completely – about 1⁄2 inch from the intersection with another branch.
If you need to use two hands with the hand pruners, then you need to switch to the lopper. If it is difficult w/ the lopper, then you need to use the pruning saw.
Remove branches which are in the way of paths or where you don’t want them to be.
Remove branches which grow straight up and/or straight down [except in the very center of the plant].
Remove branches which are closely criss-crossed or don’t seem to fit.
Leave the ‘eccentrics’ – those odd branches which give the manzanita its unique shape or character.
Do not attempt to force a particular shape and size on your manzanita. Don’t turn all your manzanitas into lollipops!!
Treat each manzanita uniquely. Your job is to enhance the natural appearance, not impose your ideas onto it.
You may decide to remove the small dead branches on the interior of the shrub – where leaves can no longer grow. This is a personal choice as they will eventually fall off on their own.
Optional: where pruned branches are larger than 1⁄2 inch in diameter, use a bonsai pruning gel on the cuts.
If you make a mistake and cut too much or the wrong branch, don’t worry. It will probably grow back.