En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Pruning Texas Mountain Laurel

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 - 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.

 


Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora
 

More Pruning Questions

Taking down a Century Plant blooming stalk from Fair Oaks Branch TX
August 09, 2013 - Our century cactus looks like it's in the final stages of blooming and I read on your site that the original plant dies. Can we go ahead and cut down the tall blooms?
view the full question and answer

Pruning a mock orange in Charleston WV
March 30, 2009 - How far back and when do I prune a "Mock Orange" in order to get it to bloom?
view the full question and answer

Care for indoor ivy from Carollton TX
January 26, 2012 - I have an indoor ivy that is on a pole. The pole is breaking, and I need to separate the ivy from the pole with the least amount of trauma to the plant. How should I do this? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Pruning Lyreleaf Sage from McAllen TX
April 14, 2013 - I planted a few Lyre Leaf Sage last year and they bloomed beautifully. I let them seed out and had a number of new plants show up this year. I have never cut the flower/seed stalks back and now that ...
view the full question and answer

Questions about care and pruning of Mexican Plum and Mountain Laurel in Austin, TX.
January 24, 2012 - I have a couple of questions regarding tree care and pruning. I have a Mexican Plum (Prunus mexicana), about 10 years old or so. I would like to prune it. Is it ok to prune now in late wi...
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