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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.

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Sunday - August 18, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Rose care for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I am a transplant from the Pacific NW and need to relearn rose care for Austin. When is the best time to cut back the roses, or do I even bother? I also need to find out how far back I can trimming a Mr Lincoln that is over 6 feet tall. It look like a tree and I would prefer it to be more bushy in the location it is in. How severe can I cut it back? And when?


The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but also to the area in which those plants are to be grown; in your case, Travis County, Texas. Most roses available in nurseries are native to China and/or are extensively hybridized for color, fragrance and durability. There are a few members of the rosa genus that are native to Texas and grow very well in somewhat adverse conditions. One that is actually growing at the Wildflower Center is Rosa setigera (Climbing prairie rose). This USDA Plant Profile Map shows that it grows mostly in Northeast Texas, where the soil is sandy and rich and there is usually more rain. Follow that plant link to our webpage on the plant and you will see these growing conditions:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Soil Description: Clay, Sand, Loam
Conditions Comments: Prairie rose is a thornless rose that is perfect for a location where it can ramble or climb. The single form, five petaled rosy flowers gradually fade to near-white creating a wonderful multi-hued effect. Many birds relish the showy, red fruit."

We are not trying to replace the non-native roses with this particular rose, just demonstrating to you the kind of conditions that roses will find it necessary to live in to do well in Texas. Of course, everyone loves roses and most members of the Mr. Smarty Plants Team do grow them or have grown them. If you have moved onto a property where roses are already growing, then you know they will grow there. Since we don't usually give advice on non-native plants, we suggest you read this article from the Texas A&M Horticulture Department. When you follow the link, you will see a list of links on the left-hand side of the page, scroll down on that to the specific links for roses. They can tell you far more than we can and give you better advice. If you are just interested in maintaining the roses you already have, this should be all you need.

Aggie Horticulture Growing Roses in Texas

If you are thinkng of purchasing Texas-hardy roses, we suggest you check out the Antique Rose Emporium. They began with roses that have been found growing untended in old cemeteries and homesteads and have gone on to specialize in roses that can survive Texas. Mostly they are still hybrids of China roses, but have been developed into strains that can adapt to our clay and/or alkaline soils.


From the Image Gallery

Climbing prairie rose
Rosa setigera

Climbing prairie rose
Rosa setigera

Climbing prairie rose
Rosa setigera

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