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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 - 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

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