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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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Tuesday - June 28, 2011

From: Denton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens, Transplants
Title: Post-bloom period care for Pink evening primrose
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Hello, I live in Denton, TX. I introduced pink evening primrose as a ground cover to a xeriscaped section of my property a few years ago. I have pretty much left it alone and let it do its thing and I have been rewarded for that until now. I know that it typically can get somewhat leggy in the summer, but it's unacceptably leggy this year. I am considering cutting it back. My questions are: 1. How tall do I need to leave it in order to not traumatize it? (I'm not sure whether to do this with a high setting on the mower, or with an electric weed trimmer) 2. It's supposed to be in the upper 90s over the next 10 days or so. Is this a good time to cut it back, or would it be better to wait for cooler weather? 3. With the understanding that I would like to encourage the colony to continue to expand, what other advice would you give for cleaning up or maintaining evening primrose?

ANSWER:

You certainly have one of the best wildflower species for a Xeriscaping garden in Oenothera speciosa (Pink evening primrose).  It is quite safe to mow the patch back to the ground whenever the plants become too leggy.  Since you wish to encourage the colony to grow larger, it would be best to wait until the seed capsules become hard and dry-looking. The seeds will then be mature and will be released if you leave the mowed stems on the ground in a dry spot. 

Pink evening primrose also readily propagates through the extension of underground roots if there is a bit of moisture in the soil.  Some gardeners actually find the plant too invasive for their tastes despite the ease with which plants advancing into unwanted spots can be pulled up.  If you wish to encourage even greater expansion of the primrose coverage, transplant a few of the plants to new locations.  They are tough and should survive if transplanted in somewhat cooler weather and kept watered for a week or so.

 

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