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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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Sunday - May 20, 2012

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Planting, Trees
Title: Huisaches in pots from Houston TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have special (and probably weird) affinity to huisaches (acacia farnesiana). As a child I used to admire the three that elegantly guarded our backyard looking almost like fingers reaching for the sky. Some adventurous gardener must have been inspired to trim these thorny beasts into a shape we would normally associate with crepe myrtles. And so, in my nostalgia, I have spent a good part of the past 2 years procuring seeds and babying along 15 of these thorny beasts. (I somehow found the tiny little thorns the plants grew when they were little more than seedling kind of charming in their ferocity) They are now approximately 24 inches in height, still in pots. I am trimming and manipulating them so that they are multi-branched, adapting some techniques from books about espalier and hoping I can recreate that look. I wonder, though, can i keep these plants in pots? I kind of hope that I can leave them in pots - albeit big 24" or 30" pots - or do I have to make plans to put them in the ground...

ANSWER:

Begin by reading our How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants.

You can see from this USDA Plant Profile Map that Acacia farnesiana (Huisache) definitely grows in the Houston Area. You can follow the plant link to our webpage to learn more about its growing conditions, light requirements, etc. One comment on that page is that Acacia farnesiana can form dense thickets from suckers. This would probably be the first problem with growing it in a pot. The second problem is under Size Notes: Height 15-25 feet, Spread 15 to 25 feet. An ordinary root span is at least two times the height or crown size of the plant.

So, at the outset we would say the climate where you are would permit growing the plant, but we are not at all sure about the circumference of the roots going into a pot.  Since you mention espalier, which involves severe pruning of a plant, we see no harm in trying it. If at some point, the roots come out of the bottom or crack the pot completely, we would say it's time to take it out of the pot. Since you seem very adept at propagating the plant, you might consider them disposable; work on a few of them in large pots, or move them up in progressive sizes of pots, and enjoy them as a hobby until they break out of there. Or start them in pots, moving them up to larger pots as necessary and then plant them in the ground. But don't wait too long-the bigger they are, the harder they will be to transplant successfully.

 

From the Image Gallery


Huisache
Vachellia farnesiana

Huisache
Vachellia farnesiana

Huisache
Vachellia farnesiana

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