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 - May 29, 2013

From: Livermore, CA
Region: California
Topic: Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Pruning of tree poppy from Livermore CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We have a Dendromecon rigida which has been in place for about 10 years and is doing fine. But the older growth gets dry, brown and crinkly, while the newer growth is bright and lush. I would like to keep it looking good, but I'm afraid of pruning off too much of the unsightly old growth for fear of overdoing it, so I have been tending to leave much of the old growth in place. Any advice about how aggressively this plant can, or should, be pruned?


There are two members of the Dendromecon genus native to California. Both appear to be endemic to California; that is, growing nowhere else in North America. One is Dendromecon rigida (Tree poppy) (USDA Plant Profile), native to quite a big area of California, including Alameda County, and Dendromecon harfordii (Harford's tree poppy) (USDA Plant Profile) native to Santa Barbara County and the Channel Islands. Both are members of the Papaveraceae (poppy) family.

We mention this similarity in these plants because we found these pruning instructions for Dendromecon harfordii (Harford's tree poppy) which we think would be applicable to Dendromecon rigida (Tree poppy):

"Regarding pruning, I like tipping the plant back lightly but if it gets too big it can be treated more harshly taking half or more of the plant off around November or December. It re-sprouts generously and if those branches are immediately tipped back again it forms a more dense and floriferous plant the next year."


From the Image Gallery

Tree poppy
Dendromecon rigida

Tree poppy
Dendromecon rigida

Harford's tree poppy
Dendromecon harfordii

More Shrubs Questions

Native replacement for bamboo from Houston
May 21, 2013 - I've read one reply where you do not advise using Bamboo as a privacy fence plant. What do you suggest in its place? The suggestions on the one I read will not work for me. Your suggestions were My...
view the full question and answer

Planting dogwood in Baytown TX
April 23, 2010 - I live in Baytown Texas and was wondering if this would be a good area to plant a dogwood tree?
view the full question and answer

Blocking dust from a road in Sturgis MS
September 20, 2012 - Please let me know what Trees/shrubs will help block dust from dirt road.
view the full question and answer

Plant to cover retaining wall in Carlisle PA
August 01, 2010 - I have a block retaining wall in my back yard. I need to find a quick growing plant that will grow through late summer into fall and cover the wall with limited sunlight.
view the full question and answer

Small native shrub for Noblesville In
April 30, 2012 - Is there a small shrub native to central Indiana that is suitable for front yard city landscaping?
view the full question and answer

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