Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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 - April 21, 2005

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning
Title: Cutting back, pruning and dividing native plants
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am wanting to cut back, or prune, and divide many of my native plants but don't know how. What should I do? I bought them all at the native plant sale at the center last fall. We have a family membership out there as well.

ANSWER:

There are several factors that enter in here; for instance, whether your plants are herbaceous or woody, annuals or perennials, spring bloomers or summer bloomers. If your plants are annuals, you probably want them to set and drop seed to produce new plants for the next season. In that case, you don't want to prune anything until at least 1/2 the seeds have set and dispersed. Some annuals respond favorably (some don't) to pinching off the tops to encourage them to branch and bush out.

For perennials that die back in the winter you can remove dead foliage, but extensive pruning will depend on when they bloom. For spring-flowering bushes or trees, it is best to prune after they have flowered in the spring since the flower buds are setting in the fall and winter pruning will remove them. Your safest time for pruning summer-flowering bushes or trees is in the winter--late November through early February. However, if your plants have gotten too bushy or rangy, you could probably do some judicious pruning almost anytime, being careful not to remove flower buds or too much of the plant at one time. The bottom line is that your pruning strategy pretty much depends on the plant.

You can look up information about any particular plant that you bought at our sale by going to the Native Plants Database and searching by its common or scientific name and selecting "Growing Conditions" from the menu at the top of its page. This may not tell you exactly how and when to prune for each plant, but it will give you additional information about the growing conditions for the plant. For instance, if you bought an autumn sage (Salvia greggii) plants, you will see that the old growth should be pruned severely when the spring growth begins.

 

More Pruning Questions

Texas sage losing inner leaves
May 14, 2015 - I have a Texas Sage bush that on the outside is beautiful with green leaves. The inside branches (the middle) of the bush are bare of any leaves. Why?
view the full question and answer

Premature leaf drop on Red Maple in Kentucky
June 25, 2008 - I have a ten foot Red Maple tree that has been set out for 4 years. Its leaves have slowly turned colors until it currently looks like fall. The leaves are not falling off nor is there yet any s...
view the full question and answer

What to do with bloom stalk on yucca
June 08, 2008 - Six years ago, I dug up two small narrow-leaf yuccas from a deer lease outside of Junction, Texas. I planted them in a raised bed in my yard and the smaller of the two survived and grew. To my surpris...
view the full question and answer

pruning Chinkapin oak, Loquat and Monterrey oak trees
December 07, 2012 - What is the best time to plant a 45-65 gal. Chinkapin oak tree in Pflugerville. Also, when can i prune fig trees, Loquat trees and a Monterrey oak. Thanks for the information.
view the full question and answer

Problems with Texas Mountain Laurel in Dallas
May 04, 2010 - I have a Texas Mountain Laurel that is about 3 years old. When I bought it 2 summers ago, it was about a foot high. Now it is over 6 feet. It seems to have grown so fast that the branches can't ke...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.