En Español

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?


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

Wednesday - January 27, 2010

From: Crockett, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Should I top my scraggly magnolia tree? No
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


Mr.Smarty Plants, I live in Crockett,Tx. My husband and I just bought this house. In the front yard I have a very tall,scraggly magnolia tree due to trees growing up around it. We have cut some of those trees down and I want to know if I should top the tree by 15+ft? I would rather have a shorter,fuller tree. Would that be ok and when is the best time to do it? She just looks so pitiful..


Mr. Smarty Plants thinks the answers to your questions are NO and NEVER*.

Here are three websites that supply more details to corroborate these answers.

Plant Amnesty

Urban Tree Foundation

Trees Are Good by the International Society of Arboriculture

I suggest that you consult a certified arborist to help you with this problem. The "Trees are Good" website can provide you with information for locating and selecting an arborist  in you area.

 * trimming to clear utility lines could be an exception


More Pruning Questions

Dead portions on oak tree in Hutchinson KS
August 22, 2011 - I have an oak tree on the property I just moved into. One tree is healthy, the other has a dead side or almost dead. It did have some new green leaves on the dead branches but not many. What should...
view the full question and answer

Yellowing leaves on non-native weeping birch in Brick NJ
August 16, 2009 - I have a young weeping birch-planted in spring-we water regularly, it gets good sun-and rain has been perfect--the leaves get yellow--and now they are a lot! Whats the matter? I love my little tree.I ...
view the full question and answer

Mountain Laurel suffering from Spring freeze
May 12, 2015 - I have a 4 1/2 ft Texas Mountain Laurel shrub in current location for several years. A hard freeze this spring killed every leaf on the tree, but the stems remained green. My other smaller Mt. Laure...
view the full question and answer

Is December a good time to prune oaks in Central Texas?
December 29, 2010 - Given that we haven't had much cold weather here in central Texas (Wimberley) this season, is it a good time to trim live and Spanish oak trees (damaged limbs and low hanging branches and suckers)? ...
view the full question and answer

Pruning Texas madrone trees from Utopia TX
August 19, 2012 - I have a number of large Texas Madrone trees on my ranch in Utopia Texas. A few of them have dead limbs and I was wondering whether I should cut off the dead limbs or just leave the tree alone. I wa...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center