En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Wednesday - February 06, 2013

From: Waco, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning
Title: Pruning Pigeonberry
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


Should pigeonberry be pruned back to the ground this time of year or should a few inches of stem be left? This is my first spring with them in the garden and I've not found any reference material that includes pruning specifics.


Rivina humilis (pigeonberry) is a nice perennial plant that is often used as a groundcover for dry and shaded areas under trees and shrubs.  Growing to about 1 foot, the shiny green leaves are a good backdrop for the pinkish/white bloom spikes and clusters of bright scarlet berries. Many birds eat the fruit which is often present on the plant at the same time as the flowers. The fruit (and leaves) though are toxic to humans if ingested.

New growth and blooms will start once warm weather arrives in Central Texas (mid-February to mid-March) so it is best to do your pruning while it is dormant. Even if your plant has not received any freezing weather to kill last year’s growth, your young new plants are probably spindly and thin and pruning them will encourage more shoots to emerge and result in a fuller plant this first year.  Prune the plant down to a few inches if it is dormant or just above a leaf node (about 6 inches up from the soil level) if it is evergreen in your garden.  In the milder parts of Texas you may not even have to prune it back in subsequent years if no winter dieback occurs.  Just enjoy the maroon/purple winter foliage color.

If you would like to propagate more pigeonberry using seeds, take a look at this Mr. Smarty Plants question and response for instructions.


From the Image Gallery

Rivina humilis

Rivina humilis

Rivina humilis

Rivina humilis

Rivina humilis

Rivina humilis

More Pruning Questions

Due to drought is pruning live oaks beneficial from Houston
December 07, 2011 - Would it be beneficial (presuming a continued spring drought) to prune live oak trees more severely than usual this winter? I'm thinking that it might help them to have less mass to support.
view the full question and answer

Pruning Trees in Austin, TX
April 05, 2013 - I have lots of green growth sprouting on the trunks of mature trees. Should I trim them off?
view the full question and answer

Shearing Pink Skullcaps
September 21, 2014 - My pink skullcap plants keep dying. The ones that are still alive are about 3 years old, but have large sections of dry twigs. Do I shear them and hope they come back or are they gone? I live in Helot...
view the full question and answer

Maintenance of Bicolor Sage in Austin
February 05, 2009 - I had quite a bit of Bicolor Sage planted when my yard was landscaped. I am now wondering on the proper plant maintenance. Do I prune back and if so, how much and when do I prune?
view the full question and answer

Need to control Turk's cap in front yard in Austin, TX
February 28, 2015 - I have several turks cap in my front yard- they grow well, but they grown huge-high and spread out. My neighbors' are much more compact! how can I keep them in control?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center