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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - January 07, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Seasonal Tasks, Privacy Screening, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Pruning cherry laurel in January in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Do trust I checked Q&A first. Can Cherry Laurel shrubs be pruned earlier than late winter in Austin? I foolishly planted 12 native Cherry Laurel standards on our suburban property line 5 years ago. I do trim to keep under control, but new neighbor wants them gone, now. I'd like to prune by a 1/3 of their height (conical shaped) this week as a peace treaty and to demonstrate that the shrubs can work as a lovely living fence. Is pruning in January another foolish decision? Thanks so very much Mr. Smarty Pants! Cherry Laurel lady in Austin

ANSWER:

Of course you can prune Prunus caroliniana (Cherry laurel) now. The only reason to prune a woody plant at some specific time of the year has to do with when it blooms. Since the blooms of the cherry laurel are insignificant, that should not be a consideration. Our webpage has just one comment on pruning of this plant:

"Maintenance: Cherry laurels do not like being severely pruned and will resist being trained into an angled hedge."

Since the attraction of this native Texas shrub is its open, graceful growing habit, providing screening and food for the birds, you would not try to create a boxy, formal hedge of it in any case. Pruning one-third is reasonable; you will have some bare places for a while because this shrub tends not to have much foliage in the interior, but that will quickly grow back in the spring.

We hope your neighbor can be placated and realize the advantage of having a privacy screen already in place. And thanks for checking our q&a first, we get a lot of questions and not having to answer the same one over and over contributes to our efficiency, which always needs help.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Prunus caroliniana


Prunus caroliniana


Prunus caroliniana

 

 

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