En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Cutting back, pruning and dividing native 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
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

Pruning Copper Plants
February 06, 2013 - I planted two beautiful copper plants in my front beds. They went wild during the fall, but got so leggy that I cut them back nearly to the ground, which I believe was a mistake. Will they come back o...
view the full question and answer

Getting rid of yucca plants in Blanco, TX
May 12, 2009 - How does a person get rid of Yucca plants? We have four fig trees that do not bear figs, what do we need to do? We live in SE Blanco County, Texas.
view the full question and answer

Pruning mature cedar elm trees in San Antonio
September 14, 2008 - When is the right time to prune my several mature cedar elm trees? I'm in San Antonio, and they have never been trimmed in the 55 years we have lived in this home. I have several that are at least 7...
view the full question and answer

Should I top my scraggly magnolia tree? No
January 27, 2010 - Mr.Smarty Plants, I live in Crockett,Tx. My husband and I just bought this house. In the front yard I have a very tall,scraggly magnolia tree due to trees growing up around it. We have cut some of tho...
view the full question and answer

Trimming Butterfly Plants
February 11, 2013 - I am looking for detailed information on trimming common butterfly plants: crucita, cenizo, sweet-stem, whitebrush, Mexican trixis, skeleton-leaf goldeneye, white plumbago, turk's cap, desert lantana...
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