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Posts Tagged: shrub

Princess Flower Pruning Pitfalls

I love my princess flower (Tibouchina urvilleana), which grows in front of my home office window. The shrub’s airy structure lets light in through the window, yet provides enough screening that I’m not distracted—well, not quite as much—by the activity in the back yard.  Its branches provide a convenient resting place for hummingbirds and finches (which is definitely distracting!).  The plant produces beautiful, large, purple flowers nearly non-stop.  And when the blooms slow, the soft red-rimmed green leaves alone are pretty enough to carry the show.

Unfortunately, in recent years, my princess flower has grown spindly and lopsided.  I’ve lightly pruned it in the past to prevent legginess, but this year, I finally reached the point where I would have to take drastic measures or replace the plant.  A neighbor prunes her smaller shrub down to the bare wood each year and it comes back as a thick bush covered in blossoms each spring.  So I decided to experiment and radically prune the plant before making a decision about removing it entirely.

In February of this year, I grabbed the pruning saw, took a deep breath and started pruning the princess flower down to bare wood.  By May, I had just about given up any hope of seeing signs of life, when leaves finally appeared.  In September, the plant had grown . . . lopsided again.  (And no, that side doesn’t get more sun.)  Attached are photos from those months. 

While it was a grand experiment in pruning, the results weren’t what I hoped.  Although I toyed with the idea of another hard pruning this winter, instead I think I will replace the plant with another princess flower.  Another neighbor recently planted princess flower standards—maybe I’ll try one of those!

 

The pruning begins. (photos by Erin Mahaney)
The pruning begins. (photos by Erin Mahaney)

Pruning completed.
Pruning completed.

Not much happening yet in May.
Not much happening yet in May.

Still lopsided in September!
Still lopsided in September!

Posted on Monday, October 15, 2012 at 11:12 AM

Polecat Geranium

Also known as Shrub Verbena or Polecat Geranium, this rugged evergreen perennial Lantana camara 'Confetti' is a local favorite for its hardiness and cheerful blossoms.  This medium sized shub grows well in zones 9a through 11b and tolerates soil types ranging from clay, to loam, and sand both acidic and alkaline as long as the soil is well-drained. This shrub has an upright growth habit varying from 2 to 3 feet, although I prune mine back to just below 4 feet a couple of times each year.  It can reach 8 feet across, but as you see in the accompanying photo, I keep it pruned to a shape similar to that of a weeping cherry.  This shrub is a very carefree plant that wants lots of sunshine to cover itself in blooms almost year round in our Solano climates.  The 'Confetti' variety produces small 1 to 2 inch clusters of blooms grouping individual small flowers of bright yellow, pink and lavender.  The flowers are attractive to us gardeners as well as bees, butterflies, and birds.  The leaves are dark green and aromatic with coarsely-toothed margins which are simple, opposite, and lanceolate ranging from ¾ of an inch to 3 inches long and ½ inch to 1 ½ inches wide.  The leaves can be an irritant to the skin and the berries which follow the flower are toxic so plant this shrub away from children or dog play areas.  The fast growth rate and drought tolerance makes this shrub a good choice for xeriscape gardens.  This shrub is seldom bothered by pests or disease, but too much water or fertilizer will result in fewer blooms.  This tropical plant will die back at temperatures of 28 degrees F. or less but the plant will return growing from the roots when warm weather returns.

 

Lantana camara 'Confetti'. (photo by Trisha Rose)
Lantana camara 'Confetti'. (photo by Trisha Rose)

Posted on Thursday, February 23, 2012 at 8:53 AM

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