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Long Live Your Landscape

Previously, we discussed how to identify and properly prune prematurely dead and diseased branches on trees, shrubs, and perennials. Now, let’s talk about preventing dead plants and branches.

When there is an abundance of dead woody plants, they usually fall into three main categories: broadleaf evergreens (including magnolia, photinia, dwarf youpon and boxwood), heavily pruned plants, and a combination of the two.

Rarely do plants die from a single cause. Almost always it’s a combination of factors, such as severe drought and frequent shearing of foliage.

Shrubs that are not adapted or native to South Texas typically only do well in rainy years, and excessive trimming – especially during the peak of summer – forces woody plants to reach deep into their food reserves to conduct daily life processes. Without additional food from photosynthesis, plants cannot complete basic life processes or create new roots to obtain water. Consequently, they die.

What can a prudent gardener do to prevent future plant death? First, always select plants that are native to South Texas or known to withstand drought and floods (consider Texas Superstar Plants). Second, apply 1 inch of compost and 2 inches of mulch over the entire root zone to encourage moisture retention and root growth. Finally, give your evergreen woody plants a deep, thorough soaking once during the winter months.

Mark Peterson
Mark Peterson
Mark A. Peterson is a conservation project coordinator for San Antonio Water System. With over 30 years of experience as an urban forester and arborist, Mark is probably the only person you know who actually prunes trees for fun. When not expounding on the benefits of trees and limited lawns, you’re likely to find him hiking San Antonio’s wilderness parks or expounding on the virtues of geography and history to his friends.
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