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Mountain Laurels – Mustering More Blooms

During my tenure with the Texas Forest Service, I repeatedly heard the lament “Why are there no blooms on my Texas mountain laurels?”

Limited or no blooms on mountain laurels can result from several different causes. Planting in the shade, early freezes, too much water and insects have all been implicated in diminished flowering, but the main culprit is the avid gardener who can’t refrain from pruning.

Like many spring blooming trees and shrubs, the mountain laurels buds are formed the previous year. So pruning the flower buds in the summer, fall and winter will result in no blooms in the spring.

So if it’s mountain laurels, pomegranate, plum, redbud, Mexican buckeye or viburnum, wait until the flowers have gone and new leaves have fully expanded before pruning. In our area, this is usually late April or early May.

I’ll let you in on a little secret: Texas mountain laurels rarely, if ever, have to be pruned. It is simply one of our best xeric small trees. And, once established, mountain laurel rarely needs supplemental water. Enjoy your trees. Don’t harass them.

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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