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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Sunday - May 16, 2010

From: Shell Beach, CA
Region: California
Topic: Pruning, Trees
Title: Over-trimmed junipers in Shell Beach CA
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Help! My husband decided to "trim" the juniper bushes that are in front of our house that create a great private front yard. I guess he cut back into the dead wood and now nothing is regrowing. It's an ugly eye sore. Is there help? Or can you suggest maybe a climbing plant that will cover this up?

ANSWER:

We are afraid that is a major OOPS! From this article on Pruning Junipers, from the Bartlett Tree Research Laboratories, we extracted the following information:

"Junipers do not produce buds on old wood and subsequently will not respond to drastic pruning. If specimens become overgrown, replacement rather than severe pruning usually is necessary."

In other words, you should not expect new budding on the old wood that is left. We recommend you read the whole article in order to judge whether the damage is so severe, it's a lost cause. We would not recommend planting a climbing plant to cover the remnants of the tree. In the first place, that would shade out whatever places might still have a chance to bud. In the second place, if the juniper does indeed die, it will then rot out and leave you with a vine that has nowhere to go. We would suggest you give the plant a chance to recover. Don't fertilize it, that is always a knee-jerk reaction to any problem and it just encourages the tree to put on new growth, which it obviously does not have the strength to do right now. The roots need to get some remaining foliage (there is some remaining, we hope?) to start providing food for the plant through photosynthesis in order to recover. If it does begin to grow back, and does so very unevenly, or simply does nothing, then you might as well replace it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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