En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - December 10, 2013

From: Pottsville, PA
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Pruning buttonbush from Pottsville PA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

In a formally planted park, a small area has become swampy. I have choosen to plant it with wet tolerant native plants. I would appreciate any suggestions on pruning the buttonbush [Cephalanthus occidentalis] to fit into the setting and not become ragged.

ANSWER:

Cephalanthus occidentalis (Common buttonbush) is native to Schuylkill Co., PA as shown in this USDA Plant Profile Map. We always check on this first to make sure gardeners are not spending a lot of effort on a plant that cannot survive the environment where they are being grown. 

If you follow the plant link above to our webpage on this plant you will find these growing conditions:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: High
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Wet
Soil pH: Circumneutral (pH 6.8-7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Cold Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay
Conditions Comments: Common buttonbush is a spreading, multi-branched shrub or sometimes small tree with many branches (often crooked and leaning), irregular crown, balls of white flowers resembling pincushions, and buttonlike balls of fruit. Buttonbush is a handsome ornamental suited to wet soils and is also a honey plant. Ducks and other water birds and shorebirds consume the seeds."

In particular, notice the line: "Buttonbush is a handsome ornamental suited to wet soils and is also a honey plant." You have chosen this plant very well for the conditions you describe. Also on that page is this information: "Trunks are often twisted. Spreading, much-branched shrub or sometimes small tree with many branches (often crooked and leaning), irregular crown." You can see from the pictures below from our Image Gallery that the plant is capable of growing to a very full shape.

From the University of Connecticut Horticulture Department, mention is made of periodic "rejuvenation pruning" to avoid the plant becoming misshapen and out of control. From the Purdue University Department of Horticulture, please read this article about rejuvenation pruning

The conclusions from both of these academic articles is that pruning is better done on a regular annual basis. Since the plant is deciduous and you should prune woody plants (trees and shrubs) in cool weather, we would advise mentally noting or even loosely tied flags on points at which you plan to prune Although this is by nature a loosely growing shrub, we believe that regular annual maintenance will be better to keep it neat and appropriately sized than the cutting to the ground of rejuvenation pruning.

 

From the Image Gallery


Common buttonbush
Cephalanthus occidentalis

Common buttonbush
Cephalanthus occidentalis

Common buttonbush
Cephalanthus occidentalis

More Pruning Questions

Pruning Agarita in the Winter
February 18, 2012 - I recently came upon a small grouping of agarita plants that had been somewhat choked by cedar. Having removed the cedar I noticed there were quite a lot of dead branches within the shrubs. Would Fe...
view the full question and answer

Trimmng and fertilizing yucca
September 07, 2007 - Should I cut the stalks of the Yucca that have already bloomed or wait until they dry? How often should I fertilize?
view the full question and answer

Blackfoot daisy declining in Austin
September 04, 2010 - My Blackfoot Daisies have grown large, bushy, have bloomed well over the past two summers. Now parts of the plants are drying up, dying. Will pruning out the dead parts help the plants to survive, or ...
view the full question and answer

Should I top my scraggly magnolia tree? No
January 27, 2010 - Mr.Smarty Plants, I live in Crockett,Tx. My husband and I just bought this house. In the front yard I have a very tall,scraggly magnolia tree due to trees growing up around it. We have cut some of tho...
view the full question and answer

Red oaks that didn't drop leaves in Austin
April 04, 2012 - I have a number of Red Oaks on land that did not drop leaves this past fall. Now these same trees seem to be dead? It seems there's some type of mold/fungus on the trees. Some trees have small patche...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center