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Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

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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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Friday - February 17, 2012

From: Bastrop, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Trimming of Flame acanthus from Bastrop TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My flame acanthus never lost leaves off the bottom tier of branches this winter. With the brief warm weather and rain we've had, the top and middle tier of branches have all re-leafed. It is very leggy and I wanted to shear it. Would it be too stressful on it to prune it now?

ANSWER:

The weather, heat and drought, have been a trial for gardens and gardeners this year. The best advice we can give you in this situation is what we would give anyone with a perennial, deciduous plant. Although this is a woody plant and does not necessarily need to be pruned to the ground like herbaceous perennials, it still will benefit from a good pruning, now. Don't worry about the premature leafing out, the bush will sprout fresh, stronger branches, eliminating the "legginess" and there will be more leaves and blooms as a result. Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame acanthus), as you will see from our webpage on this plant (click on the link to read it), has rather brittle stems anyway, and shorter stronger branches will be less likely to split or break in the wind or rain, and thus preserve the shape of the plant. It can even be pruned into a hedge shape, but we prefer the wilder, more natural look.

 

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