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To Win In The Plant World, Grab The Sunlight Before Your Neighbors


In the plant world, the most common way to win the game of life is “grab the sunlight before your neighbors.” The tips of the branches produce a hormone that suppresses sprouting of side buds further down the stem, so plant resources are directed to make the tips grow up taller and faster.

That may serve the purpose of the plant in the wild, but we would rather see our plants full and bushy, with more tips full of blooms rather than fewer but taller tips. So this is the prime time of year to remove those tips (and thus free the side buds to sprout) to create the plant aesthetics we desire. A perfect example would be a hibiscus plant that is maybe 6 feet tall, but has dropped a lot of leaves and is looking a little bare and stemmy. By cutting just 4” to 6” off the ends of the branches now, you will increase density and number of shoots and blooms. If you need to control overall size, you can certainly prune back much further and achieve the above benefits as well.

Many other ornamental plants in our gardens would benefit by this treatment now, such as Texas sage, Mexican heather, most salvias, ligustrum and viburnum hedges, esperanza (if you prefer a bush over a small tree) and many more. But please do not prune tall growing crape myrtles this way. Most horticulturists consider a graceful sinuous branching pattern to be a more desirable aesthetic in the tall varieties of crape myrtle, valued over increased blooming, with the exception of the dwarf varieties.

If you have pruning questions (or other questions), please give us a call, or email us a question and a photo to or post a photo and question (or a brag!) on our Gill Landscape Nursery Facebook page.


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