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Gardening tips on pruning sage shrubs

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: March, 2014, Page 145
Photo by Nancy Erdmann

Texas Sage



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Q - I have five sage shrubs that are about 5 feet tall and wide. The interiors of the bushes are hollow. Can I prune them back to a smaller size to rejuvenate them?

A - Texas sage, also known as Texas ranger (Leucophyllum sp.), is a popular landscape shrub that is commonly sheared with electric or gas-powered equipment, and shaped into odd spheres, cylinders or cubes. After repeated shearings, a “crown” of leaves about 3 to 4 inches deep covers the plant, preventing light from penetrating the interior. This is why it appears hollow, woody or dead inside, explains city of Chandler Water Conservation Coordinator Cathy Rymer.

To preserve the plant’s natural shape and encourage more flowering, use bypass hand pruners or loppers to make selective pruning cuts. First, trim back the overall size of your plant by a third. Next, stagger the lengths of stems by removing some at the base of the plant, others at their point of attachment to a larger stem. This staggering allows light to reach the interior. Soon, new growth will appear, restoring a more natural appearance.

Selective pruning is described in Pruning Shrubs in the Low and Mid-Elevation Deserts in Arizona at cals.arizona.edu/pubs/garden/az1499.pdf. If your plants overwhelm their space, consider replacing them with a smaller variety. Texas sage shrubs are available in a range of mature sizes, and smaller options may eliminate the need to prune.
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