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Thursday - November 12, 2009

From: Universal City, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Pruning Texas Mountain Laurel
Answered by: Janice Kvale

QUESTION:

How much can I prune a 10 year old mountain laurel to re-shape it and when?

ANSWER:

Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel)  is a wonderful evergreen shrub which breaks forth in February and March with showy purple blossoms whimsically smelling like grape bubblegum or perhaps Koolaid. But you know all that so let's get to the crux of the question. This is not a shrub that usually requires pruning, so is there a good reason to prune your specimen? Let's assume there is and you want to do something about it. Those blossoms appear only on year-old wood, so you may not want to prune until after the bloom period. If you prune after blossoming to preserve the bloom for next year, you may find pruning stimulates increased blossoming. The classic rule on pruning is prune during dormancy and, in Texas, during the winter (you may lose the blossoms for the next season) or during the hot summer.

First, envision how you want the finished product to appear. Mountain-laurels may be shaped into bushy shrubs or taller trees. The U. S. Department of Agriculture Forest Service describes Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) as averaging between 15-25 feet tall with the potential of reaching 50 feet high! On the other hand, the bushier they are the better screens they make. For a tree-like appearance, encourage height by pruning out the lower branches leaving between one and three trunks. With this choice, there is increased maintenance in keeping the suckers at bay. For a shorter, bushier appearance, trim the upper branches to discourage height. Because this shrub is slow growing, it may take time (think years) to achieve the look you are striving for. Unless you want faster growth (which may require more need to prune), do not fertilize the shrub or the grass around it. 

Prune no more than one third of the shrub at a time, taking first any dead,  broken or diseased parts. Then take out the thin, spindly branches with narrow crotches.Cut the branches back to the point of origen or next lateral branch. Pruning paint is not necessary as there are few or no diseases to cause concern. For general pruning principles, read our How To article on pruning. Also, you can always hire a landscape professional to advise you on shaping the shrub and doing the pruning. Our Suppliers list may help in finding such a person.

 

 

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