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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - October 23, 2012

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Pruning guidance for Carolina buckthorn from Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a Carolina Buckthorn in my back patio that I planted in fall 2001. The summer of 2003 the roofers dropped something off the back and broke the top 10-12 inches off. I have tried to train the largest branch to be the top. it is now 12 feet tall and it is leaning really hard to one side. I am worried that it might break. it gets afternoon sun directly and in every other respect is very healthy and beautiful. I am wondering whether I should take out the top 2 feet and let it grow however it chooses. I don't want to lose it. thanks for any advice.

ANSWER:

Frangula caroliniana (Carolina buckthorn) is native to Harris County, according to this USDA Plant Profile Map. You can follow the plant link above to our webpage on this plant and learn about its growing conditions and care, including this comment:

"Carolina buckthorn is airy and tiered, somewhat like the flowering dogwoods. Three to four hours per day of sun are necessary. With more sun, the plant tends to get dense and shrubby losing some of its charm."

To give you some feel on how much effort you should put into maintenance of this tree, here is a previous Smarty Plants answer on the height and lifespan of the plant. From our Step by Step Guides, here is a Guide to Pruning a Tree.

From the USDA Forest Service, here is an article on Caroliina buckthorn. Scroll down a little way and you will find a paragraph with specific information on Trunks and Branches. We would advise waiting until cooler weather, like November to February, to do the pruning, and you might want to consult a professional arborist.

 

From the Image Gallery


Carolina buckthorn
Frangula caroliniana

Carolina buckthorn
Frangula caroliniana

Carolina buckthorn
Frangula caroliniana

More Pruning Questions

When to prune Texas betony (Stachys coccinea)
May 28, 2007 - I bought Texas Betony plants several years ago at Wildflower Days. They are thriving, but a bit leggy. Somewhere I read that they should be cut back several times during the year. Now I can't find...
view the full question and answer

Area under live oaks from Austin
October 08, 2012 - We have many live oaks in our mostly shaded half acre. While I have tried to plant mostly native plants, often beneath them, the plants are showered with leathery leaves, acorns and sap, while oak sp...
view the full question and answer

Pruning time for Lonicera sempervirens from Pflugerville TX
August 08, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, When does the Wildflower Center prune its Lonicera sempervirens?
view the full question and answer

Pruning mature cedar elm trees in San Antonio
September 14, 2008 - When is the right time to prune my several mature cedar elm trees? I'm in San Antonio, and they have never been trimmed in the 55 years we have lived in this home. I have several that are at least 7...
view the full question and answer

How to prune Opuntia ellisiana in Decatur, GA.
August 20, 2009 - Hi Mr SP--How do I go about pruning an Opuntia ellisiana? I have saws, newspaper, heavy leather gloves, goggles, etc. But my question is more about what section of the plant to cut. The base has de...
view the full question and answer

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