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?


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

Sunday - October 21, 2007

From: Pflugerville, TX
Region: Select Region
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Shaping of native hawthorns
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have three young hawthorns that were propagated from a nearby Blackland prairie stand. If I limb them up, will that encourage them to branch more near the top, or will it just ruin the form altogether? If I prune off lower branches, by what percentage can they be pruned without harming them? They have a spindly main trunk between 5 and 6 feet tall, and some of the lower lateral branches are approaching 1/2 inch in diameter. I've had them in the ground a couple of years. They resemble the hawthorn that is growing in the Wildflower Center's demonstration garden, which I understand is a "volunteer" hawthorn of unknown parentage. I don't know the genetic line of my hawthorns. I'd like the branching to become thicker near the top and have a less-gangly small tree.


There are a LOT of hawthorns native to North America. Several are distributed naturally only in Texas; among these are Crataegus texana (Texas hawthorn), Crataegus turnerorum (Turner's hawthorn), and Crataegus viridis var. desertorum (desert hawthorn). Crataegus tracyi (Tracy's hawthorn) is found on the Edwards Plateau and west. These are all good possibilities for which hawthorn you have.

However, it really doesn't matter, in terms of pruning or shaping. One of the charms of the hawthorn is its rounded top and draping fronds of leaves and blooms but we can understand your not wanting it to become a bush. Certainly, lower branches may be pruned off as they emerge. Just be careful not to take off too much foliage at once, as those leaves are vital for nutrition to the plant. Wait a month or so to do this pruning, to allow the tree to get as deep in dormancy as possible. Your hawthorn could get to be up to 25 to 40 feet tall, so don't feel you have to do all the shaping at once. A tree that's only been in the ground two years is pretty young, so taking just a branch or two off this time would be a good idea. It won't necessarily contribute to the top getting fuller, but it will give that appearance as you develop a longer trunk.


Crataegus texana



More Trees Questions

Oak Sucker Reprise
May 02, 2015 - ----Original Question---- SUNDAY - JULY 06, 2014 Title: Live Oak Suckers Reprise, Austin TX QUESTION: Referring to an entry dated March 11, 2011 about Live Oak suckers - what happened to the su...
view the full question and answer

Live oak leaves not dropping from Austin
April 29, 2014 - We had a 65 gallon live oak planted last October. We watered it regularly and it was green all through the winter. In March the leaves started to turn brown but never dropped, as they should have. ...
view the full question and answer

Trees for pool area in San Ramon, California
April 24, 2010 - We live in San Ramon. We are remodeling our pool and are looking for a tree that will be 15 feet from a pool. We just removed a pine tree. We have now lost our privacy and see the neighbor's back f...
view the full question and answer

Problems with a Monterey Oak in Austin, TX.
November 12, 2010 - I have a large Monterey Oak, planted last year that has not gotten any fuller. Do I need to fertilize and if so, when?
view the full question and answer

Mexican sycamore for Briarcliff, TX
August 11, 2009 - I would like to plant a sycamore in my yard. I have searched and do not see info on the Mexican sycamore on this website. Is this not recommended in Central Texas for planting? I cannot find the Am...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center