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Monday, February 9, 2015

Pruning Globe Mallow and Bird of Paradise

Q. We have a very old globe mallow shrub that looks bad after a frost. When and how should it be pruned to bring it back to its former glory? Do Mexican Red Bird of Paradise need regular pruning? How can one tell what and where to cut?

Globe Mallow growing in extremely poor soils in Las Vegas.
A. Globe Mallow can be a spring flowering perennial which means it can live for over two years provided it does not get damaged. Growing in the desert without irrigation it can be rather scrubby. But with a small amount of water and fertilizer it can be a beautiful woody shrub that can grow 2 to 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide.

Close close-up of the flower of globe mallow growing under stressed conditions.

If the globe mallow is looking kind of old and ratty you can cut it down to an inch of the soil and totally renew it or you can selectively cut down some of the older stems and renew it slowly.

If you want to keep it bushy from head to toe then take about one third of the oldest wood out now, next year take another third and the following year take another third. This will renew it over a three-year cycle and help keep the foliage and flowers from top to bottom.

You would do this pruning immediately after it finishes flowering.

Flower of the desert bird of Paradise
Mexican red bird of paradise usually gets a pruning to the ground every few years because of hard freezes. You have a couple of choices, much like your globe mallow. You can cut it to the ground or selectively remove one third of the oldest wood to the ground and in a three-year cycle.

You would do this pruning during the winter months or before new growth starts in the spring or after flowering is finished.

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