Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - December 20, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Trimming American beautyberry in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have recently developed an interest in plants and since I work for a country club taking care of all the House & Grounds Maintenance, the landscaping is certainly a part of my work. I have a question in regards to some American Beautyberry: Do you have to trim it down to the ground or leave it alone when it drops all the leaves? I hope my question makes sense.

ANSWER:

For some reason, perhaps a combination of heat and then sudden frost, the Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) in the Austin area have been unusually spectacular this year. Certainly we would not trim it until the birds or time had removed all those gorgeous berries. As to regular care or pruning, here is an excerpt from our Native Plant Database:

"Conditions Comments: American beautyberry is a wonderful, large understory shrub with a naturally loose and graceful arching form. In the fall and early winter, the branches are laden with magenta purple (sometimes white) berry clusters that look spectacular as the leaves drop in autumn. It is useful as a screen in swampy or wooded locations or under shade trees in a garden setting. It can be cut to 12 inches above the base each winter to encourage more compact growth, flowers and fruit. It can also be left to mature naturally into a tall woody shrub. The shrub may temporarily defoliate and lose developing fruit during periods of prolonged summer drought."

In summary, this is a beautiful, wildlife-friendly, native plant. The degree to which you prune is pretty much a judgment call, concerning whether you want it low and compact or a larger shrub. But the pruning time, either way, is certainly late Fall or early Winter.  

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana

 

 

More Pruning Questions

Freeze damage on perennials in Austin
December 10, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, The recent hard freeze in Austin really took a toll on the plants I put in the ground in early October. The leaves of my salvia, lantana and esperanza are completely black! ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Anacacho Orchid tree in Austin
May 17, 2010 - I have an Anacacho Orchid that is about 9ft tall. It is early May and has not started to put out leaves yet on the old growth. I can't even see any noticeable buds yet. It is still alive because I ha...
view the full question and answer

Flowers for days on end in California
March 30, 2012 - What are some plants or flowers that I can grow "all-year" in California?
view the full question and answer

Corkscrew willow damage to roof in Detroit, MI.
August 13, 2009 - I have a corkscrew willow (Detroit, MI) that is huge and whose branches hang on top of the asphalt shingles of my mobile home. It has now been discovered that these shingles, under the branches, are ...
view the full question and answer

Shaping of native hawthorns
October 21, 2007 - I have three young hawthorns that were propagated from a nearby Blackland prairie stand. If I limb them up, will that encourage them to branch more near the top, or will it just ruin the form altoget...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.