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
14 ratings

Sunday - August 03, 2008

From: Arroyo Grande, CA
Region: California
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Pruning of Grape Kool Aid Plant in California
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a Grape Kool Aid plant and was told it would grow to 6 or 7 feet tall, but it is well over that and I need to know if I can prune it and if so how?

ANSWER:

Is this a test? Is somebody out there trying to trick Mr. Smarty Plants into making a mistake? Well, it's not hard, but maybe we dodged the bullet this time. Turns out there are two plants referred to as Grape Kool Aid Plant, one native to Texas and New Mexico and one to Africa.

Our first thought was that you were referring to Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel. The flowers of this tree (see pictures below) are said to smell like grape Kool-Aid. Personally, we never stick our nose into flowers pollinated by bees, but that's what we're told. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are devoted to plants native to North America, and planted in the area to which they are native, because they are accustomed to the conditions and will require less water, fertilizer and maintenance. The Texas mountain laurel is basically a desert tree, a legume with very poisonous seeds but absolutely beautiful in the blooming season of February and March. A member of the Fabaceae (pea) family, it is native to the Texas Hill Country and is often found growing among granite rocks. We did find indications that it is being grown in California, but found no information on pruning it. Ordinarily, pruning for shape and to remove damaged limbs would be about the limit. Dispose of prunings carefully, as all parts of the plant are poisonous. We always recommend pruning during the dormant season, mid-winter in California.

On the other hand, we suspect that you may have Psoralea pinnata in your garden. This is a native of Africa, also a member of the Fabaceae family, which blooms in Spring and again in late Summer. It grows 8 to 10 feet tall and 10 feet wide. The flowers also are purple and smell grapey, so maybe it's the color, who knows? Again, we found no information on pruning, but would still recommend pruning for shape. It is a short-lived tree but is prolific in seedlings and suckers. It is, in fact, classified as an invasive in Australia, so that might be a risk in California which is such a good place to grow, invasives love it. Again, prune in mid-winter. 

Probably the only way you can be sure which plant you are dealing with is the leaves. On this page of images of Psoralea pinnata, you can see that the foliage is needlelike, although we understand it is soft and non-allergenic. In contrast, as you can see from the pictures below, the foliage on the Texas mountain laurel has shiny, leathery compound leaves made of 7-9 leaflets that are rounded at the ends.


Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

 

 

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Planting under Pine Trees in Pocatello ID
April 08, 2014 - Hi I was wondering if you could give me some ideas of what I could plant under and near some pine trees for my area. The trees are huge and so it is also constant shade where I want to plant. Thanks f...
view the full question and answer

Blue Natives for San Antonio
June 28, 2012 - What are the best flowers or trees to buy since we are always in stage 2 and sometimes in stage 3 water conservation? I love flowers that are blue, preferably year around. THANK YOU
view the full question and answer

Patio Privacy Screen Suggestions for Central Texas
March 17, 2013 - I have just built a patio and want to plant some small trees, bushes or shrubs to form a visual barrier (rather than to erect a fence)to the neighbors yard.
view the full question and answer

Low-growing evergreen shrubs for Bellville , TX
February 02, 2010 - I live north of Bellville, TX and have a 3-tiered retaining wall on the west and north sides of my house. What low growing (around 2' tall) evergreen shrubs would be good to plant here. The west si...
view the full question and answer

Yellowing leaves of Texas Sage (Cenizo) from Las Vegas NV
November 21, 2013 - Leaves of Texas Sage are turning yellow. Can you tell me why?
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