How to Care for the Burning Bush Plant

Updated on March 14, 2018
Diane Lockridge profile image

Lockridge is an avid reader who loves to enjoy beautiful things in the garden. She has worked with a florist.


As the name implies, the “burning bush” has fiery red foliage in the fall after it has been dark green during the spring and summer months. Homeowners often use this shrub as a privacy screen or to help brighten dark spots in the yard.

How to Plant

  1. Dig a hole three to five times the width of the burning bush’s root ball. When placed inside, the top of the root ball should sit ¼ to ½ inch higher than the soil line.
  2. Mix organic compost with the soil removed from the hole.
  3. Remove the plant from the container, gripping it by the base of the trunk. Loosen impacted soil by tapping the sides.
  4. Inspect the root ball; remove any rotted pieces with a sharp sterilized knife. Gently separate any encircling roots.
  5. Set the plant in the center of the hole, spreading roots around the base of the soil.
  6. Backfill around the roots, and press some of the amended soil around the root ball. When the hole is about ¼ full, press down the soil by hand. Continue filling in hole until about ½ full, press down the soil by hand.
  7. Water the plant when the hole is about ¾ full to help the soil settle down and remove any air pockets.
  8. Form a 3-inch circular basin around the newly planted shrub. The newly formed “moat” will help retain moisture and direct water down to the roots.
  9. Spread a three inch layer of mulch around the inside the basin to three inches away from the trunk. Use slow-degrading softwood mulch, such as pine straw or cypress to add nitrogen to the soil.
  10. Plant bushes 5 to 6 feet apart for a border, or about 1 foot away if you desire to form a hedge

General Care

Although the burning bush can tolerate a variety of soil and climate conditions, it must have full-sun for most of the day in order to have the massive show of colorful red

Water the shrub deeply and often during the first season to encourage an extensive root system.

Prune in the late winter or early spring to help the shrub stay healthy and looking neat. Cut the shrub narrower on the top and wider on the bottom to allow sun to penetrate to the interior of the plant.

Apply fertilizer in early spring.

Pruning Considerations

There are four types of pruning burning bushes: light pruning, routine pruning, heavy pruning and severe pruning.

Light pruning helps maintain the overall shape of the bush and can be completed at any time of the year. Cut back overgrown branches to keep the basic of shape of the bush. Make cuts at a 45-degree angle to allow easy water run-off.

Routine pruning removes dead or diseased wood, and encourages healthy wood Routinely prune every year during the late winter or early spring.

Heavy pruning refers to pruning after the bush has been neglected, or if you wish to rejuvenate the shrub. Complete heavy pruning in later winter or early spring before new growth. Cut about 1/3 of the canes growing form the base of the bush. Cutting back so deeply into the bush opens up the shrub, allowing more light and air into the shrub.

Severely pruning your burning bush after it has been “drastically neglected” suggests The Planting Tree. Cut back the bush to the ground level in early spring to help encourage plenty of growth in the season.

Common Problems

Like other plants, the burning bush isn’t immune to insects and other pests such a rabbit or deer. Periodically check the plant for fungal spots and mildew, and remove as necessary.

Helpful Tips

The burning bush makes a great statement, especially when displayed en masse. Consider planting the burning bush as a hedge for ultimate impact, or in front of larger evergreen shrubs. Select a nice contrasting color, one that won’t clash when your burning bush is in all its brilliance.

Due to their rapid growth, and large size some homeowners use this shrub as a privacy screen. The burning bush can reach 6 to 8 feet tall and 8 to 10 feet wide.

Helpful Resources

Questions & Answers


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      • AliciaC profile image

        Linda Crampton 5 weeks ago from British Columbia, Canada

        I love the colour of the fall leaves. This would be a beautiful plant to have in a garden. Thank you for sharing the information.