Rent Shop Volunteer Join

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Search Smarty Plants
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Sunday - December 08, 2013

From: San Antonio , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Pruning lower branches of Cordia Boissieri from San Antonio
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My Texas Wild Olive Tree is about 6 feet high now. I bought it at the 2012 plant sale. This past summer it put on new branches near the base of the tree which I would like to cut off (to encourage upward not outward growth). I read that the Texas Olive does not tolerate pruning very well. Is it okay to prune the new lower branches and if so, is winter the best time of year to prune it?

ANSWER:

Cordia boissieri (Mexican olive) is endemic to Texas and, as you can see from this USDA Plant Profile Map does not grow natively in Bexar County. We say this because of the very cold weather we have had in Central Texas the last week or so, and we wonder if you may be having worse problems than whether to prune,  but we hope your tree has managed to survive. It is supposed to be all right as far north as Austin but this has been most unusual weather. For this reason, we recommend you do nothing for a month or so. It is good to do any pruning of a woody plant (trees and shrubs) in the winter, but waiting until January and assuring the tree is alive might be a good idea.

The research we found indicated that it should be pruned only for shape, but did not say it disliked pruning. We also learned that some gardeners prefer to leave lower branches and allow it to be a bush. All indications are that if it loses some leaves because of frost that they will quickly reappear. In January, if you are unsure if it is alive, give it the thumbnail test. Starting at the highest branch you can reach, scratch off a small thin sliver of outer bark. If there is a thin layer of green beneath that, the whole tree is alive. If not, work your way down until you find some green. We suggest this test before you remove those lower branches just in case that is all that is alive and need to be left so the leaves can make nourishment for the tree and permit it to grow. If higher branches are dead, they will not regrow.

If you have established you have a living tree that does not require retention of lower branches, there should be no problem with cutting off those lower branches.

 

From the Image Gallery


Mexican olive
Cordia boissieri

Mexican olive
Cordia boissieri

Mexican olive
Cordia boissieri

More Trees Questions

Anacacho orchid not leafing out in Georgetown TX
April 18, 2013 - February 2012 I planted 2 4-ft anacacho orchids which did well. This spring, they have yet to leaf out or even bud. There is green, however, when I scratch the stems and some suckers at the bottom of ...
view the full question and answer

Names of native plants in Garland, Texas
October 31, 2008 - We are building a new Assisted Living & Memory Care community in Garland Texas. We typically name the different floor plans after trees, plants or flowers indigenous or native to the area. Can you pr...
view the full question and answer

Plants for heavy clay in Sonoma County, California
July 10, 2013 - Hi, I live in Northern California, Sonoma County, and would like to transition my front garden into mostly native plants. Trouble is, my soil is clay, yicky, heavy clay, and some of the natives I've ...
view the full question and answer

Stressed Ashe juniper is dropping needles
May 07, 2015 - We have a large Ashe juniper tree in our backyard, at least 20 ft tall. This past winter/spring, several limbs have died and it's dropped a ton of leaves (clumps of "needles" really). Is it slowly ...
view the full question and answer

Trees non-toxic for horses in California
May 02, 2011 - I would like to plant next to my pasture. Please send a good variety of nontoxic (for horses) plants for shade. I live in Redding Cal.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.