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
1 rating

Tuesday - March 29, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Pruning wax myrtles from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I've got some wax myrtles that have grown up in the last 10 years on my property line, completely volunteer. My neighbor has begun to grumble about too much shade on his yard. I'd like to trim them down to about 8-10 feet to act as a hedge without shading out too much of his grass. When can these be pruned?


Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle) is a nice shrub or small tree that can get up to 12 to 15 feet in height. It is evergreen, has fragrant flowers as well as fragrant foliage, and attracts many different kinds of birds. It is a fairly wispy open plant, so it shouldn't be casting too much shade on your neighbor's grass, but in the interest of good neighborhood relations, you can certainly prune it back to 8 to 10 feet.

Wax myrtle is very forgiving of pruning, and we saw several different suggestions when we searched on the Internet. If you do it right away, before new growth starts to show up, you can prune them now, don't wait until it starts to get hot. Then, after that, prune it a couple times of year to help it regrow into a hedge size and shape. Don't get too severe and boxy in your pruning, as that will ruin the natural character of the plant. If you are getting berries on your trees, that means you have female trees and there are male trees of the same species in the area for pollination. It is not surprising that you got those trees coming up voluntarily. So many birds love the berries, eat them, digest them and re-issue them with a little fertilizer at no extra charge, that they will grow volunteers all around. The wax myrtle doesn't sprout particularly aggressively, but it wouldn't hurt to pull out volunteer seedlings when you see them, before you get a wax myrtle thicket. The wax myrtle really grows better a little farther east in Texas than Austin, preferring a slightly acidic soil which it doesn't find in our alkaline clay soils. However, it sounds like yours are doing just fine.


From the Image Gallery

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

More Pruning Questions

Care of Northern honeysuckle bush
April 26, 2009 - I have a honeysuckle bush, I have had it for about year to two years. I would like to know if I should cut the brown parts off. There are some vines that do not look good, but some of the branches ha...
view the full question and answer

Care for penstemons in South Jordan, UT
June 21, 2009 - I have Firecracker Penstemons and they bloomed beautifully this year. How do I trim them and when? Will they continue to bloom throughout the summer?
view the full question and answer

What about the brown dots on my Silver sage?
June 27, 2008 - During the past year, the leaves on my silver sage bushes around the perimeter of the front of my house have turned yellow in places and there are tiny brown dots on virtually all of the leaves. If I ...
view the full question and answer

Pruning technique for Anacacho Orchid from Austin
May 18, 2011 - I have an Anacacho Orchid tree that is about 8 ft tall and still young. It is doing quite well. I have never pruned it, but lately I have been considering it as some of the top branches are starting t...
view the full question and answer

Pruning dogwood in TX
February 02, 2011 - I have a roughleaf dogwood (Cornus drummondii) sapling that I would like to keep at shrub height (~6 ft) rather than let it form a tree. Can I encourage this by cutting the main trunk, and if so, by ...
view the full question and answer

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