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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - November 15, 2010

From: Surprise, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Sprouts at base of holly in Surprise AZ
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Friends have recently planted a holly tree in their front yard. They live in AZ and there is no grass (only rock) around their tree. It was planted as a fairly large tree (about 18 feet).My question is, around the base (5 foot radius) the tree is sprouting. Is this common. What can they do to keep the growth down, this is a winter home that they don't spend much time at, and it makes the home look unlived in and messy. Thank you for your time.


You did not say which holly was being grown in Arizona, We checked in our Native Plant Database for all the Ilex (holly) genus that grow natively in Arizona and found there are none. That may be the first clue; plants that produce sprouts coming up from their roots are often stressed by environmental conditions and just trying to put out some survivors to carry on when the main plant dies. Growing in conditions hostile, or at least non-native, to a plant can certainly produce stress in that plant.

There is one plant with "holly" in its common name, Atriplex hymenelytra (Desert holly), that is native to Arizona. However, it is not a true holly although this USDA Plant Profile does show it as native to the Surprise area. You could follow the plant link and see if this looks like the plant your friends have in their yard.

Nativity aside, if the house is not being lived in year-round and watering is not being done in the hot weather, the plant is just trying to get some leaves out on those sprouts to help survival if the leaves on the shrub proper shrivel up and die. About the only treatment for the sprouts is to cut them off, and keep cutting them off, near their base. You can't use a poison on the sprouts because they share the roots of the bush for nutrients and water. We are afraid that the choice of that plant for those particular circumstances probably have doomed it. We realize the plant was probably purchased locally, on the assumption that if it was sold there, it would thrive there. Unfortunately, too often this is not the case.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Atriplex hymenelytra

Atriplex hymenelytra



More Shrubs Questions

Need suggestions for plants for a bird/small wildlife refuge in Wichita Co, TX.
August 26, 2011 - With our continuing drought in North Texas, I'm planning to transform my small backyard into a bird/small wildlife "refuge". What types of native plants and grasses can I plant in dry, hot Wichita ...
view the full question and answer

California plants poisonous to dogs from Sacramento
July 01, 2012 - Found dodonea viscosa purple. Is it poisonous to dogs? Also Gold Star Potentilla. Going drought tolerant and need small trees, shrubs and plants not poisonous to dogs for sun and partial sun.
view the full question and answer

Drought tolerant privacy plants for Flagstaff AZ
March 19, 2013 - We need a fast growing drought tolerant tree that will grow in Flagstaff AZ/Parks AZ. Neighbors are hoarders and we want privacy fence to cover the mess. Any help would be greatly appreciated.
view the full question and answer

Drought & Deer Resistant Shrub for Shade in Medina, TX
June 14, 2013 - We are dedicated to native plants in Medina, but are desperate to find a drought and deer resistant shrub for shade. Would we be too far off base with an oleander bush? We know birds and most butterfl...
view the full question and answer

Hardy shrub for Canton, MI
May 06, 2009 - I have an 8' x 8' area between my front walk and driveway. I am interested in filling up the space (especially in height) with a shrub or tree. This area gets a lot of wind in the cold MI winter,...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center