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Next to my house is a viburnum that has grown unchecked and now it’s a tree - maybe 12 to 15 feet tall. It is healthy. Is it possible to turn it back into a bush - more like 6 to 8 feet tall? There are suckers coming up from the base but if I take the naive approach and just cut the trunk a little way above the suckers, will that kill the whole thing?

And if this is possible, is there a best (or worst) time of year to do this?

I'm a novice; let me know what other info I can provide.

EDIT: New England, north side of house. Added photos showing entire tree and suckers off of trunk near ground.

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  • Suckers form the ground, or just shoots off the trunk? Sounds like shoots off the trunk, but my viburnums send up a lot of suckers from the ground as well.
    – Ecnerwal
    Jun 2, 2022 at 14:56
  • Hi Dave, a picture and approximate location would help. Is it flowering now? Mine are and that helps identify the species
    – kevinskio
    Jun 2, 2022 at 15:44
  • @Ecnerwal See 2nd pic. Off the trunk but right at the base.
    – DaveBurns
    Jun 2, 2022 at 18:55
  • @kevinskio Added the info you asked for. It's not flowering now. I can't remember what month but the buds are there so I assume coming soon?
    – DaveBurns
    Jun 2, 2022 at 18:55

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That appears to be a different species than mine, but I'd say that if you were careful not to damage the smaller stems, you could cut the main trunks fairly hard without much risk of losing it.

Rule of thumb would be to cut it back in summer since you are looking to make it smaller - cut back in spring most things are more prone to try to grow more elsewhere. Not too late in summer so it has time to heal and any new growth has time to harden off.

Then again, there's late fall or winter - since you're really not looking for healing minor pruning cuts, and the main trunks are not going to "heal over" - they'll just end up dead (or mostly dead) and replaced by the suckers.

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  • I agree most viburnums are tough if they are not getting their leaves eaten by the viburnum beetle
    – kevinskio
    Jun 2, 2022 at 23:30
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    Marked as the answer. I'll report back on how things go. :-)
    – DaveBurns
    Jun 7, 2022 at 18:26

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