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

Friday - August 16, 2013

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Recovery of an agarita having been cut down from San Antonio, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I had an agarita adjoining a cedar and a volunteer hackberry in my yard. The tree trimmers were supposed to cut out the hackberry but unfortunately also cut the agarita back to the ground. How long will it take the agarita to regrow from the roots to at least knee high? And, is there anything I can do to speed up the process?


Well, first I would have a very serious conversation with the boss of the tree trimmer. We feel that there is sufficient difference between Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita) and Celtis laevigata (Sugar hackberry) (see pictures from our Image Gallery below) to differentiate the two.

Our take on this is that everything now depends on the roots. They have stored food which must now be devoted to getting some new leaves going to manufacture more food. If this happened in very hot weather, which is all we have been having lately, it would be a little surprising if it recovered at all; however, native plants live where they do because they are very tenacious of life. We would not recommend fertilizer at this point. While fertilizer, especially high nitrogen fertilizers, will promote green leaves, they will tend to add more stress to an already extremely stressed plant.

As to how fast the agarita will recover and how big it will be in a few years - after considerable searching, we found one comment (in a blog) that said it was relatively slow-growing and after a flood caused several to die, one on higher ground survived, but after several years was still only about a foot tall.

So, if you are deciding whether to fish or cut bait on your agarita, we would advise you to hold off on making a decision.

1. First, see if it has survived at all. Scratch a very thin peeling from the visible roots or branches or whatever shows about the ground  gently with your thumbnail. If there is a thin layer of green underneath, that part of the plant is still alive.

2. If you subscribe to "where there's life, there's hope", first cover the soil with a thin layer of compost. Do not push it up against whatever is left of the trunk, but just think of it as shade for those poor roots.

3. Water by pushing a hose down in the soil around the roots and letting it drip very slowly until the soil at the surface is moist. This is a desert plant and doesn't need its roots standing in water, they will rot.

4. Watch for leaves to begin to reappear. Remember, the plant needs those leaves to make food for the roots and thus to regenerate the plant. The plant is evergreen, so if the plant doesn't get leaves this season, it probably won't later, either.

You may have to resign yourself to digging out the roots and planting something else, or another agarita, in that space. If there is any chance of saving it, try to do so. You will never recover the resources that went into planting it to begin with - like water, purchase price, your blood pressure when it got cut down - but saving the plant keeps you from having to spend them again.


From the Image Gallery

Mahonia trifoliolata

Sugar hackberry
Celtis laevigata

More Shrubs Questions

Plants for southwest Louisiana courtyard
December 29, 2009 - Hi, I live in southwest Louisiana,very close to Texas. I would like to remove the grass in my townhome backyard (east sun exposure) and create a courtyard by adding pavers. However I am planning on...
view the full question and answer

Lace Bugs on Lantana
August 06, 2015 - All my lantana bushes are suffering from severe lace bug infestation. The lace bugs have been seen via microscope as well exoskeletons and poop. The buds are destroyed and I have no flowers for hummin...
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of shrub in Georgia
May 26, 2010 - I have a bush that has red berries. It is evergreen and the leaves are a soft green. The berries are white at first and turn red. The bush is like a cluster of twigs that are in one area kind of li...
view the full question and answer

White flowers to plant in front of evergreen tree screen in Altoona PA
June 15, 2010 - I have planted about 30 evergreen trees (as a screen). I would like to plant a row of low maintenance whitish flowering bushes or low maintenance large flowering plants in front of this row. Any sug...
view the full question and answer

Shrubs with berries for birds and growing small red oak tree
September 16, 2007 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Recently, I saw a short article about attracting birds to one's yard. The article said to plant "berry-bearing" shrubs, but didn't name any specific shrubs. Could you tell...
view the full question and answer

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