The Q&A Archives: TX Mountain Laurel

Question: We have been in our home one year on 7/1. The landscaping was completed in Sept. I was my understanding from the landscape designer that the two Tx Mt. Laurel that were planted could be pruned into a tree...both plants are about 4 1/2 ft tall and have many stalks/branches in the ground. How should I go about pruning to have a tree rather than a bush? Both plants bloomed this spring.
Thank you for your consideration...Genevieve

Answer: Arborists do not recommend pruning a tree for at least one year after transplant, except to remove dead or diseased wood. Since we are in the midst of summer, I would not recommend pruning such recent transplants now. Removing branches and foliage opens up the bark tissue to sunburn, which is quite common here in the low desert. Excessive sunburn can actually kill a plant, as the bark tissue cracks and the openings leave the plant susceptible to disease and pest problems. Pruning is stressful to plants because it is reducing the amount of foliage to photosynthesize and provide energy to grow. Too much pruning can starve a tree. It's a good idea to leave lower branches on a tree for several years, because these low branches help a trunk increase in girth. Then, gradually remove lower branches over a 2 or 3 year period. Never remove more than one-quarter to one-third of a plant in any one year, again because too much foliage loss reduces it's ability to make food for itself. Texas mountain laurel are fairly slow growing, so it will not hurt the shape of the tree to wait. When you do prune, the best time for native or desert-adapted trees is early summer (May to early June). I hope this info helps!

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