In general gardening terms, pruning is probably the most misunderstood gardening chore, and certainly, the chore that is most likely neglected. When we specifically look at pruning with regards to sacococca, this misunderstanding and negligence can be magnified. Pruning has been described as a “combination of art and science.” Pruning a specific plant to look a specific way, involves art in creating a unique definition for a specific plant, and it involves science in understanding the physical growing habits of the plant to be pruned. Since they thrive in dry shade they can be under planted in groups beneath large shrubs and trees of winter interest, like Witch Hazel. Another interesting use of Sarcococca is to keep it clipped in simple topiary forms, like cubes. This is especially effective used in combination with denser topiary plants as Buxus sempervirens. Keep the two shrubs at different height to avoid an awkward appearance of the softer Sarcococca shrub compared to the sharp box. They can be planted to create a low hedge or used in the border as specimens or en masse to create a wave of fragrance. Being dense evergreen shrubs they can even be employed to disguise ugly areas, such as dustbin or bicycle stores. And they can be extremely effective grown in pots, perhaps alongside some flowering heathers, placed in a prominent position when they come into flower in the winter, to brighten up the front of a house or patio. The most important reason for pruning Sarcococca hookeriana is to improve the overall health of the plant. Many times, Sarcococca hookeriana that have not been pruned in a few years will develop dead or degenerative twigs. Removing the dead and dying limbs will minimize the possibility of diseases such as “dieback” and will also allow the plant to re-concentrate its energies. In many instances, sarcococca that have been neglected for a number of years will become infested with insects such as scale. Severely pruning such infested sarcococca will not only re-invigorate the plant, but will also reduce insect problems and minimize corrective treatments necessary to eliminate such problems. Another reason for pruning Sarcococca hookeriana is to re-define the plant’s definition within the landscape. Many times, a plant may outgrow its intended size in the landscape, and must be pruned to re-define its purpose. Pruning should always be associated with re-invigorating a plant by allowing it to focus its energies on producing more vigorous branches, foliage, and flowers. Specific plant objectives require specific pruning techniques. If a Sarcococca hookeriana is being trained as an hedge, it would need to be pruned differently than if it were being grown as a specimen form. Screenings and hedges of Sarcococca hookeriana would need to be pruned for their specific purpose within the landscape. It is also important to understand the specific growing characteristic of a certain plants when pruning that particular plant. When pruning established sarcococca where no labeling is present on a variety to identify it, you need to look at the general growth patterns of the plant to be pruned. These observations should give you a good idea of how the plant tends to grow, and also how you should prune the plant. Many times, gardeners inherit a wealth of shrubs in their gardens when they purchase a previously owned residence. Although these plants may have been lovingly cared for by the previous owner, it may be necessary to severely prune these plants to restore vigor or to create a different definition in the landscape for the new owner of the property. Severe pruning should be done just after the plant has finished blooming. In some instances where the required pruning would be drastic, the pruning may be done towards the end of summer even if the plant has not finished blooming. Severe pruning of sarcococca is generally thought to involve the removal of one third to one half of the existing plant. However, in some instances, this severe pruning could be even more drastic. In most cases, the plant should have no problem recovering from such a major pruning, and the pruned plant should quickly begin to grow with vigor. If severe, pruning is necessary, it must be realized that the plant will shift its focus in the short-run from setting flower buds to growing vigorously, and it is very likely that the Sarcococca hookeriana will have few if any bloom buds during the season following the major pruning. During the second season following the severe pruning, the mahonia should resume normal bud setting, and the plant should have healthier blooms because of the increased vigor in the plant. It is important to always use sharp tools when pruning plants. Knives, hand cutters, saws, and shears should be sharpened if necessary before pruning any plants. A sharp cut will heal quicker than a jagged cut, which will also minimize the likelihood of disease investing a cut during pruning. It is generally recommended to not use power equipment such as gas hedgers to prune Sarcococca hookeriana. Prune limbs flush to the feeder branches without leaving "nubs". These leftover branches could eventually provide host for disease to enter your mahonia. Many gardeners apply a pruning sealant or paint to all cut surfaces after pruning, but that practice is generally not necessary.