En Español

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

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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - June 06, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Pruning, Transplants, Shrubs
Title: Poverty plant overgrown in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We have a poverty plant that is too big for its space in our yard. We like it and want to keep it. Can it be transplanted easily? What about pruning it.


We had to search on "poverty" in our Native Plant Database, and got 4 results:

Two, Sporobolus vaginiflorus (Poverty dropseed) and Baccharis neglecta (False willow) grow in Travis County. The other two, Danthonia spicata (Poverty oatgrass) and Juncus tenuis (Poverty rush) grow in Texas but not in Travis County. Since you asked about transplanting or pruning it, we decided it was probably the False Willow. You can follow all four links to the webpages on those plants to make sure we chose the correct plant.

Follow this plant link Baccharis neglecta (False willow) to our webpage on the plant. Here are the Conditions Comments on it:

"The species name neglecta refers to the prevalence of this plant in neglected or disturbed areas. Although common, consider planting this shrub for its showy profusion of silky silver/white flowers. Roosevelt Weed is also a good nectar plant for many pollinators including some butterflies. Simple to care for: Full sun and low water."

On the subject of transplant, NOT NOW. No matter how large or small, healthy or not, we recommend planting all woody plants, trees and shrubs, from November to January in Texas. The plants should be dormant then and less likely to develop transplant shock, which can be fatal. A lot depends on how large the shrub is now and where you would have to move it to.

As we did further research on this plant, we are wondering if you might want to have another think about saving it at all. Read this article from Aggie Horticulture, where we learned that it not only can become quite invasive, it is also very flammable, not a good trait in view of Austin's recent history. Another article from the Bell County Master Gardeners The "Neglected" Shrub reflects the same concerns. False Willow blooms from August to October and begins to set seeds even as it blooms. We would recommend that, if nothing else, you prune all blooming limbs away, which would reduce its size, and seriously consider taking the whole plant out before it even gets to blooming.


From the Image Gallery

False willow
Baccharis neglecta

False willow
Baccharis neglecta

False willow
Baccharis neglecta

More Pruning Questions

Pruning non-native Chinese fringe flower from Austin
June 24, 2013 - When is the best time of year to prune Plum Delight? And how severely can it be cut back?
view the full question and answer

Hedge of native Purple Sage in Austin
November 20, 2008 - Hi, I would like to plant a dense hedge of Purple Sage that will hopefully grow from 6-8 ' tall and about 4' wide. I purchased the Silverado Sage Leucophyllum frutescens 'Berstar Dwarf' variety....
view the full question and answer

Pruning Saucer Magnolia in Eatontown, NJ.
January 12, 2013 - Adult Saucer Magnolia (tulip tree). Branches were getting heavy to where they were ready to break. I pruned them back leaving 1 to 3 inch diameter cuts on many branches. Should I put something on th...
view the full question and answer

Can I trim back my 20 ft Yucca plant?
May 11, 2009 - I have a yucca tree which is about 20 ft. tall, has four main trunks. I would like to prune it to approx. 10 ft. but wonder if that will kill it or if new shoots will come out up near the cut.
view the full question and answer

Time for trimming oaks from Boerne TX
July 03, 2012 - I want to trim a native red oak but am scared to touch it because I dont want to lose it. It is the primary source of shade in our back yard. Also I want to trim the live oaks and am surrounded with O...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center