En EspaŅol

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
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

Sprout from a non-native sago palm in Poinciana FL
October 16, 2013 - I have two mature (10 years old)sago palms. One of them sprouted a new "head' at the top of the trunk. It is competing with the original one. It is not a pup coming from the root area. Can I cut it ...
view the full question and answer

Pruning Saucer Magnolia in Eatontown, NJ.
January 12, 2013 - Adult Saucer Magnolia (tulip tree). Branches were getting heavy to where they were ready to break. I pruned them back leaving 1 to 3 inch diameter cuts on many branches. Should I put something on th...
view the full question and answer

Freeze damage on perennials in Austin
December 10, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, The recent hard freeze in Austin really took a toll on the plants I put in the ground in early October. The leaves of my salvia, lantana and esperanza are completely black! ...
view the full question and answer

Removal of non-native invasive Ligustrum japonica from Austin
February 14, 2012 - I bought a house that I am slowly turning into a native garden, but as a teacher, I have a really small budget. One entire border of my backyard (30 feet) was planted with evil Ligustrum japonica. I l...
view the full question and answer

Late winter pruning of native Texas Sage
January 27, 2005 - I have several Texas Sage bushes that have started to get very woody and have growth only on the top. This seems to have led to a definite listing to one side. Should I trim these to the ground or...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center