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Mr. Smarty Plants - Pruning native Senna lindheimeriana

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Sunday - September 28, 2008

From: Iredell, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Pruning native Senna lindheimeriana
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I asked a question about pruning a Texas Senna tree. The Texas Senna I have is either a S. wislizenii or a S.lindheimeriana. It is a beautiful tree that I purchased at a Texas Native Plant nursery. Like I said in my previous email, it is about 7 to 8 feet tall and and about 7 feet across. It has small green leaves and is very bushy and full. My question was how and when do I prune it. Can you please give me some information on this?

ANSWER:

Oops, sorry, you're absolutely correct. Our mistake was to look for the "Texas Senna" in our Native Plant Database, and it wasn't found under that name. The "Texas Senna" we did find was a non-native. This is the problem we run into when retailers name their plants without regard to botanical names. Fortunately, you apparently got (and saved) a label with the proper botanical name.

Senna lindheimeriana (velvet leaf senna) is a tender perennial and considered a sub-tropical herbaceous plant. Senna wislizeni (Wislizenus' senna), on the other hand, is referred to as "shrubby", has thorns, and can apparently take lower temperatures. 

We did not find any pruning instructions for either plant; however, we did learn that in colder temperatures, Senna lindheimeriana (velvet leaf senna) will die back, but will come back from the roots. For that reason, we would suggest that you let it run through its blooming season (apparently October is the end), and then trim it back pretty thoroughly. When we prune a plant like that, we always leave stalks sticking up 8 to 10 inches, just so we'll know where it is. If you are expecting some pretty cold weather, it would be a good idea to mulch the roots. The plant should begin to come back from the roots in Spring, and will probably grow bigger and more lush for having been trimmed back. 

If you believe that what you have is Senna wislizeni (Wislizenus' senna), we would still recommend pretty good pruning, but maybe not down as low. And, in fact, you might want to wait until late Winter, when you don't expect any more hard freezes, to do that pruning. If you prune it too soon, and there is a hard freeze, it could damage new growth starting to emerge. 

 

From the Image Gallery


Lindheimer's senna
Senna lindheimeriana

Lindheimer's senna
Senna lindheimeriana

Canyon senna
Senna wislizeni

Canyon senna
Senna wislizeni

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