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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - October 08, 2009

From: cincinnati, OH
Region: Midwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Pruning overgrown spicebush shrubs in Ohio.
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I have 2 spicebush shrubs, a male and female, on the north side of my house. They have been there for years, but like everything else I have ever planted, they grow way larger than the catalog i bought them from said they would. Supposedly they would grow to 8' but they are giant. They are right along a path--can I shear them?

ANSWER:

There are many gardeners who wish they had the same problem!  Too many times a plant gets smaller and smaller before it finally just gives up the ghost.

I am assuming that the "spicebush" you are referring to is  Lindera benzoin (northern spicebush), which typically grows to 6-12 feet so it is no surprise tht it is crowding your path.

Yes, you could shear the plants, but that would ruin their graceful form and you would find after a couple of years that there would be a mass of tangled stems and leaves  on the surface of the globe or box shape with a lifeless interior.  Some deciduous shrubs can tolerate being entirely cut back to the ground and will re-sprout fresh and new, but this is not desirable in such a prominent location (and you are really taking your chances). Instead try selective pruning to rejuvenate the shrubs and reduce their size.

The best way to do this is over a three year period.  Each year remove one third of the stems back close to the ground.  After the third year, you will have a much smaller plant that doesn't look like it has been attacked.  Each year you could also reduce the mature stems somewhat so that you will have immediate results.

Keep in mind that "pruning stimulates growth" and that new growth will emerge from the outermost bud that you leave.  You can direct the new growth, and shape of the shrub, by selecting which buds to leave and which to remove.

There is a great article with illustrations) on pruning shrubs on the Purdue Extension website that you will find helpful.

 

More Shrubs Questions

Replacement for pygmy date palms in Spring, TX
April 15, 2010 - We live in Spring, Texas and the front door of our house faces East. Last winter we lost both of our beautiful pigmy date palms! We are trying to find "unique" accent plants for our front entry. D...
view the full question and answer

Deer eating creosote bushes (Larrea tridentata)
November 04, 2008 - We have Creosote Bushes (Larrea tridentata) that grow wild on out 10 acres. The deer eat those plants all year 'round. Probably more in the dry times of the year. Just wanted to let you know that t...
view the full question and answer

Plants for under a fountain splash line in California
January 29, 2009 - What plants should we plant under our fountain's splash line in our Mediterranean style courtyard? The area will get wet from the fountain's splashing and have "full" sun. We are on a rock ridge...
view the full question and answer

Hardy shrub for Canton, MI
May 06, 2009 - I have an 8' x 8' area between my front walk and driveway. I am interested in filling up the space (especially in height) with a shrub or tree. This area gets a lot of wind in the cold MI winter,...
view the full question and answer

Identification of shrub with red berries in Florida
April 22, 2008 - I purchased a plant/shrub at a yard sale in central Fl. They told me it was a native plant. It looks like a holly with the red berries but the leaves are not like a holly. They were all over the yar...
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 | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center