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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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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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Wednesday - February 06, 2013

From: Missouri City, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning
Title: Pruning Copper Plants
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I planted two beautiful copper plants in my front beds. They went wild during the fall, but got so leggy that I cut them back nearly to the ground, which I believe was a mistake. Will they come back or do I need to find new ones?

ANSWER:

There are several native plants in the Acalypha genus that have copper in their common names and could be the shrub that you are describing in your front beds.  A few examples are Acalypha phleoides (shrubby copperleaf), Acalypha ostryifolia (hop-hornbeam copperleaf), and Acalypha californica (California copperleaf).  Also, a non-native in the same genus is Acalypha wilkesiana which is also called copper plant or copperleaf.

If it is Acalypha wilkesiana (copper plants, copperleaf) in your garden it is a little out of our line. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, home of Mr. Smarty Plants, is committed to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown.

Acalypha generally though are tolerant of heavy pruning, although if they are quite woody they might sit and sulk for a while before they decide to send out some new growth. In any case, pruning your shrub back hard will theoretically encourage the plant to have denser, less spindly growth. Have patience with yours to see if it will send up some new shoots within the next several months before you head to get replacements.

 

From the Image Gallery


Shrubby copperleaf
Acalypha phleoides

Pineland threeseed mercury
Acalypha ostryifolia

California copperleaf
Acalypha californica

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