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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

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