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Mr. Smarty Plants - Hedge of native Purple Sage in Austin

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Thursday - November 20, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Privacy Screening, Shrubs
Title: Hedge of native Purple Sage in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi, I would like to plant a dense hedge of Purple Sage that will hopefully grow from 6-8 ' tall and about 4' wide. I purchased the Silverado Sage Leucophyllum frutescens 'Berstar Dwarf' variety. The tag says to space them 6' apart and that the average size is 4'. I'm seeing different heights, spacings, and sizes on the internet. How far apart should I really plant these to get a good dense wall like the picture I found on your website?

ANSWER:

Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush), also known as cenizo or purple sage, is one of our favorite plants for this part of the country. Evergreen and nearly ever-blooming with its lovely, soft gray-green leaves as a background for the stunning pinky-purple flowers. In terms of the expected size, since this is a cultivar, you should probably expect that the information on the tag is accurate. Also, since virtually all commercially available plants of this sort are the products of cuttings, they are all clones, and therefore should all have nearly identical expectations in terms of growth, size, width, etc. Particularly since this is a dwarf cultivar of a plant that is normally only from 2 to 5' tall, it doesn't seem too reasonable to expect a height of 6-8'.  If the tag says the average size is 4', that's a good estimate of what height all the bushes will be.

In terms of making a dense hedge. we hope you don't make it too dense. This is a desert plant, used to having plenty of sun and air circulation. If the plants grow too close together, and thus grow together, as it were, you are likely to lose some bloom potential because the blooms will be shaded by the other bushes on either side. We personally prefer the loose, natural way it grows, allowing it to make its own rules. Certainly, some pruning can be done, but we hope you don't prune into a squared-off boxline hedge such as we see on some commercial properties around town. You will certainy lose almost all your blooms to the power pruner if you try to do that. 

From our webpage on this plant: "Cenizo is easy to grow so long as it has good drainage. It makes a good screen or hedge. There are many nice color selections and cultivars. Susceptible to cotton root rot. Humidity and high night temperatures are lethal. Cultivated cenizos tend to become leggier with fewer blooms than in nature; tip prune to increase density. Cenizos should not be fertilized or over-watered. Drought- and heat-tolerant." If you want to make your hedge a little denser for privacy, you might try planting your shrubs in holes with the centers 5' apart. 


Leucophyllum frutescens

Leucophyllum frutescens

Leucophyllum frutescens

Leucophyllum frutescens

 

 

 

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