En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

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

 

 

 

More Pruning Questions

Dead leaves on yucca in Georgetown TX
October 18, 2010 - We have 2 6ft and 3 smaller soft leaf yuccas out back in a kidney shaped area with a wax myrtle and a mountain laurel. The yuccas have done great but now two of them have a large number of dead leaves...
view the full question and answer

Existing live oak taking over in Monahans TX
March 22, 2011 - I have just purchased a home with a huge Live Oak tree in the front yard. The previous owners have over the years allowed the sucker roots to grow unchecked. The tree is shading most of the lawn (di...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting and Pruning Callicarpa
August 21, 2014 - I saw the previous question about Callicarpa from the guy in Texas and I have two questions based on the response. In SW Vermont, is late fall still the best time to transplant my Callicarpas? Also, i...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Anacacho Orchid tree in Austin
May 17, 2010 - I have an Anacacho Orchid that is about 9ft tall. It is early May and has not started to put out leaves yet on the old growth. I can't even see any noticeable buds yet. It is still alive because I ha...
view the full question and answer

Freeze-back of Hamelia patens in winter in Texas
October 03, 2008 - Will the hamelia patens freeze back in the winter ?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center