En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Pruning overgrown spicebush shrubs in Ohio.

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

Sumacs under live oaks dying in Austin
August 08, 2010 - Converted my yard to native plants last fall. All of the fragrant and evergreen sumacs are dying off one by one - they have never thrived. I ensure they get a good soaking at least once a week. I w...
view the full question and answer

Native flower bed with part sun
December 05, 2008 - I have recently put in three small flower beds and replaced the hard clay with decent dirt. The site is shaded in the AM but mostly sun in the PM. I would like to plant natives - what can you recommen...
view the full question and answer

Plant for full sun behind waterfall
March 21, 2009 - I have a 24 inch waterfall around my pool. I need to plant something behind it. I have full sun and hot Texas weather. I will be watering everyday, so what do you think would grow well in this area?
view the full question and answer

Bumelia sending up shoots in Austin
November 28, 2010 - I have a bumelia that is sending up shooters everywhere in my yard. Everywhere!! I started to dig them up, but many come from deep roots and my digging seems to have encouraged the tree to send up m...
view the full question and answer

Problems with yaupon from San Angelo TX
April 08, 2012 - We have a 3-yr-old yaupon holly entering its 3rd summer. We have put store-bought wood-chips under the tree several times since it was planted. A plant has grown under the tree, possibly out of the ...
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