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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.

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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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Saturday - February 18, 2012

From: Dripping Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Pruning Agarita in the Winter
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I recently came upon a small grouping of agarita plants that had been somewhat choked by cedar. Having removed the cedar I noticed there were quite a lot of dead branches within the shrubs. Would February be a suitable time to prune these plants? If so, how, and would they benefit from some sort of fertilizer? Thanks.

ANSWER:

  Almost anytime is an OK time to remove true deadwood, but as a general statement – The late winter is not a good time to be pruning Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita).  I checked with our local experts, the horticulturists at the Wildflower Center, and was reminded that Agarita blooms in February to March and if you want to enjoy the flowers & berries that show in the Spring you should wait for the Fall to prune!

      Similarly, I’d not be giving them any fertilizer.  They are adapted to our Central Texas Hill Country soils and a dosing of fertilizer is not necessary.  You’ve already opened up the plants to air and light, which is what they need.  In reviewing other websites out there, they were pretty uniform that Agarita is a great low-maintenance shrub and that pruning and fertilizer are not required.  The City of Austin publication and the Tree-folks websites are good examples of this.

  Interestingly, one of the more positive responses to pruning Agarita was from an earlier Mr Smarty Plants question!  However, this request was in regard to making a maze from native plants.  Mr Smarty Plants thought that the Agarita would tolerate pruning well – but – would not even consider pruning it as the plant would fight back!

 

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