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
1 rating

Tuesday - March 29, 2011

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

QUESTION:

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?

ANSWER:

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

Improving blooming on mock orange
March 03, 2008 - I have a now 6 yr. old mock orange shrub in the garden which has never bloomed, darn it. I have fed, not fed, mulched, not mulched, sheared, not sheared. What gives? Will it ever bloom, or shall I ...
view the full question and answer

Trimming back Texas Star hibiscus in Granbury TX
February 26, 2009 - Can I trim back my Texas Star Hibuscus? And when do I do that?
view the full question and answer

Trimming non-native sago from Fresno CA
September 10, 2012 - I have a sago plant, fronds are hanging over into street, can the fronds themselves be trimmed back without removing the whole frond?
view the full question and answer

Damage from Hurricane Irene in Burgaw, NC
August 27, 2011 - We live in Burgaw, NC and have begun the clean up efforts of Hurricane Irene which has made a full grown crape myrtle lean to one side. Its a very large tree and it is not uprooted. Is there anyway ...
view the full question and answer

Washingtonia palms need to be skirted?
August 31, 2008 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I have five Washingtonia palms on my property that have never been skirted and look rather shabby. The interesting thing is that they have thrived (20-30 ft) here to begin with...
view the full question and answer

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