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 - 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 Shrubs Questions

Texas Redbud Suddenly Died in NM
November 06, 2014 - We had a Texas redbud, approximately 5 1/2 years old. It had been doing great then all of a sudden after it bloomed this spring, the leaves appeared but then shriveled right away. We noticed the trunk...
view the full question and answer

Plants for southwest Louisiana courtyard
December 29, 2009 - Hi, I live in southwest Louisiana,very close to Texas. I would like to remove the grass in my townhome backyard (east sun exposure) and create a courtyard by adding pavers. However I am planning on...
view the full question and answer

A Bounty of Edibles for New Braunfels Texas
October 25, 2013 - I was hoping you could suggest a few plants that would serve several purposes. I live in New Braunfels, TX and would like to incorporate as many drought tolerant plants which would support birds, but...
view the full question and answer

Getting a senna to fill out from Irvine CA
May 30, 2013 - I have a Senna of some kind, started from a seed by a friend. I got it as a small,six in high) seedling. After two years it is now blooming beautifully, but is a single thin stem 4 feet tall with ve...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting Ilex x attenuata (Savannah holly)
July 31, 2014 - Is it hard to take a savannah holly out of my front yard? Do the roots grow down deep or are they more shallow? I can only take a 36-40 rootball circumference because of surrounding established shru...
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