Can Texas sage (Cenizo) be saved after hard pruning?
Thanks to Amber Simon for this great question! A few months ago, she had her house painted and the crew completely demolished her Texas sage. They’re still alive but were almost completely defoliated by the damage, so they’re mainly just “sticks.” Amber notes that she can see new growth starting to emerge at the bottom and wants to know what to do to try to reinvigorate her formerly gorgeous shrubs!
First, I would suggest taking the opportunity to prune the backside of the shrubs, to make some space between the plants and the house. Next, lightly prune out some of the “sticks,” to increase the sunlight into the center of the shrubs. Increased sunlight is necessary for the plant to put on new leaves, and increasing the sunlight in the center of the shrub will help keep it from growing new leaves only on the tips. Then, give the new growth a little time to show where it’s headed and prune out the areas that aren’t putting on new leaves.
Cenizos are very slow to regrow, so the recovery process may take a while. Although these plants are commonly planted in rows and sheared into hedges, that isn’t good for them over time. They’ll be healthiest if allowed to grow to their natural potential and keep their natural shape and form.
If you have to prune Texas sages, as Amber does in this situation, be sure to do so as infrequently as possible. Cenizos can recover from heavy pruning, but it takes a while, a long while. With that in mind, if the plants were healthy and vibrant before they were damaged, and if you’re feeling very brave, Amber, you could try giving them a very hard pruning. By that I mean, taking many of the stems completely out, all the way to the ground, and leaving only the thickest, healthiest ones. This is pretty drastic, and I wouldn’t recommend it as a regular practice, but if the plant was healthy and in very good shape before it was damaged, it will respond to this heavy pruning by putting on all new leaves, and will look much better and be healthier in the long run. This drastic measure is comparable to the way we annually prune roses, which removes all of the weak and spindly growth, so that the plant can spend more resources on developing fewer, healthier stems.