July 9, 2016

1 - Deciduous plants are those whose leaves fall in the autumn and evergreen plants retain green leaves through the winter.

Yard and Garden July 9, 2016

Q.

Regarding mock orange plants: Are the green leaves deciduous -- or just the flowers? Someone at a nursery said that only the leaves fell off the mock orange bush during the winter. Then I read that the plant was deciduous - hence, my question. I am looking for bushes which maintain their leaves all year.

A.

I think you are asking what part of the plant is considered deciduous.

The simple definition of deciduous plant is a plant that loses its leaves over the winter. So, the mock orange shrub is deciduous. It will drop its leaves in the autumn and persist as twigs through the winter until new leaves form in the spring. A plant is considered a deciduous plant if it has leaves that fall away in the fall as opposed to evergreen plants that have leaves that persist as green leaves through the winter.

Botanically, the definition of deciduous can be somewhat broader. Various parts of the plant may be described as deciduous if they fall away at some point in the year. The unpollinated flowers could be considered deciduous since the flowers may fall away if they are not pollinated and do not form seeds. The petals of the flowers are deciduous even if the flower is pollinated. In this case the petals fall away while the developing fruit (seed capsule) persists through the winter and even into the next summer. Other parts of a plant may be described as deciduous, but the situation you are describing refers to the loss of leaves for the winter.

The plants you are looking for would be considered evergreen plants. There are broad-leaf evergreen plants and needle-leaf evergreen plants. The broad-leaf shrubs include Indian hawthorns, photinia, hollies, pyracantha, and other non-coniferous plants that retain their leaves through the winter. Needle-leaf evergreen plants are usually the coniferous shrubs such as arbor vitae, junipers, and dwarf conifers (pines, spruce, cedars, etc.).

It does indeed help understand these terms when looking for the plants you desire for your landscape.

Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email: desertblooms@nmsu.edu, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.

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