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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - February 06, 2013

From: Missouri City, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning
Title: Pruning Copper Plants
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


I planted two beautiful copper plants in my front beds. They went wild during the fall, but got so leggy that I cut them back nearly to the ground, which I believe was a mistake. Will they come back or do I need to find new ones?


There are several native plants in the Acalypha genus that have copper in their common names and could be the shrub that you are describing in your front beds.  A few examples are Acalypha phleoides (shrubby copperleaf), Acalypha ostryifolia (hop-hornbeam copperleaf), and Acalypha californica (California copperleaf).  Also, a non-native in the same genus is Acalypha wilkesiana which is also called copper plant or copperleaf.

If it is Acalypha wilkesiana (copper plants, copperleaf) in your garden it is a little out of our line. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown.

Acalypha generally though are tolerant of heavy pruning, although if they are quite woody they might sit and sulk for a while before they decide to send out some new growth. In any case, pruning your shrub back hard will theoretically encourage the plant to have denser, less spindly growth. Have patience with yours to see if it will send up some new shoots within the next several months before you head to get replacements.


From the Image Gallery

Shrubby copperleaf
Acalypha phleoides

Pineland threeseed mercury
Acalypha ostryifolia

California copperleaf
Acalypha californica

More Pruning Questions

Will catalpa roots damage a nearby swimming pool?
July 13, 2013 - Will a catalpa tree cause problems to my swimming pool? It is 8 feet away and I cut all the branches off every fall. It then grows back to about 6 feet in diameter an makes a great garden feature but ...
view the full question and answer

Live oaks lifting up sidewalks in Palm Coast FL
December 12, 2013 - My live oak trees roots are lifting up my side walks. Can I cut just the roots that are causing the problem without hurting the trees? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Ash tree dying back to lower sprouts in Kempner TX
June 19, 2010 - My 2 year old ash tree leaves dropped, appears dead, branches dying. New growth near base of tree. Do I cut upper trunk or remove entire tree? My other ash is doing well.
view the full question and answer

How to prune wild mustang grape vines.
July 11, 2011 - Now that my mustang grapes are harvested. When can I trim them out of the tree top and redirect them to an arbor where I can reach them next year? The main vine is at least 3" across. The vines from...
view the full question and answer

Pruning Roughleaf dogwood
November 28, 2013 - We put 5 rough-leaf dogwoods along our side deck; having been told (by the local, natural plant seller) that they would reach a maximum height of 6 feet. They have grown taller than that (despite som...
view the full question and answer

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