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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers Nan Hampton, Jimmy Mills and Barbara Medford to be the culpable and capable parties. Yet, others think staff members Damon Waitt, Joe Marcus and Philip Hawkins might play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

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Bloomingdale, MI
Pruning Roughleaf dogwood
We put 5 rough-leaf dogwoods along our side deck; having been told (by the local, natural plant seller) that they would reach a maximum height of 6 feet. They have grown taller than that (despite som...
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Paw Paw, MI
Plant identification
Hi, I live in South West Michigan and there is this plant I can't figure out. It has oval leaves in a row on each side of its stems, large thorns, and when the plant is grown it has what seems to be...
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Plainwell, MI
Invasive silverleaf nightshade in Plainwell MI
Solanum elaeagnifolium Cav. Silverleaf nightshade, Silver-leaf nightshade, White horse nettle. We purchased our land and built here 3 years ago. I have these all over my 30 acres of land including ...
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Kalamazoo, MI
Resprouting of native prairie plants after snowstorm
Will my prairie plants that have broken dormancy be harmed by a spring snowstorm? Temperatures have fallen down into the twenties and forecast to stay sub-freezing for five or six days. We have abou...
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Kalamazoo, MI
Iris brevicaulis in Southwest Michigan
We live in Kalamazoo, MI (Southwest Michigan Zone 6) and discovered last year that we have an iris brevicaulis (we think) growing (and very pretty) on our property. It has the "zig zag" stem. It see...
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Saugatuck, MI
Transplanting trilliums
What's the best time to transplant white trillium on my property on the shore of Lake Michigan?
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PORTAGE, MI
Small perennials & grasses for a naturalized lawn
I am looking for native perennials and grasses that will grow no more than 8 inches tall that can be used in a naturalized lawn in Michigan. What 5 plants would be your first choice?
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Richland, MI
Lemon cypress Goldcrest in Richland MI
Can the shrub lemon cypress survive a southern Michigan winter? If so, how does one care for it?
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Dowagiac, MI
Native ground cover for part shade in Dowagiac MI
Maybe I'm just too picky. I'm trying to make an area that is some what triangular shaped between my house and garage with a tall lattice/privacy fence on one side and walks in the back yard area on...
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Holland, MI
Plant identification
Found in a cedar swamp near Wolverine Michigan. Large dinner plate size flat green leaf on a mottled green and brown fleshy stem of about 8 or 10 inches. I first thought it was a tri-leaf plant but it...
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Delton, MI
Plant Identification
We have 105 acres in Mid Michigan. Part of this land is marshland. There is a plant-flower that I have never seen before and no one knows what it is. It is on a long stem with long skinny leaves (2...
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Benton Harbor, MI
Ground cover to withstand dog traffic in Michigan
I need a soft ground cover that will grow in sand, and be able to take four big dogs that love to run in the yard. Grass just doesn't make it. Someone suggested that groundcover might work. Thanks...
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Three Rivers, MI
Watering Houseplants with Soapy Water
I accidentally watered my house plants with a container that had a some dishsoap in it. Will they be okay? One of the plants is a 20yr old cactus, with small roots.
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Three Rivers, MI
Plant identification in Michigan
We are trying to identify a plant in our yard. It is seven inches tall in May, grows to about knee high, has red leaves, flowers in late June, early July. The flower is light pink. It is a perennia...
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Caledonia, MI
Black coloration on Star Magnolia is probably sooty mold.
I have a star magnolia where 90% of the bark has turned black. It almost looks burned. The tree has decent buds set for next spring. What is causing the bark to turn black?
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Berrien Springs, MI
Plants for Painted Lady (Vanessa cardui) butterflies in Michigan
I am wanting to raise Painted Lady butterflies and release them into my garden. I know that they like to eat Mallow plants, but I was wondering what kind of Mallow plant would be best for my garden?
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Berrien Springs, MI
Plant identification
I found a plant on a small island about the size of a hand. It is spring so plant is just coming out of the ground. It is wrapped around a bulb/flower light color with little knobs on it. The outsi...
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Jenison, MI
Smarty Plants on Germination
I just planted wildflowers and I was wondering how long before I know if they will grow?
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Dowling, MI
Reaction to something in the garden from Dowling MI
In late March I was working in my yard raking etc. The next morning I had three black spots between my knee and shin that were swelling and feverish. Two days later the areas became bigger and began...
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Battle Creek, MI
Orange/yellow fungus on a dead oak
I have a large dead oak tree which has an orange/yellow fungus growing at the base and also high on a spot where a branch had broken off. I've read a couple of things from the internet about this fun...
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Wyoming, MI
Lantana trees in Wyoming MI
We love lantana with its multicolored flowers. This weekend we visited Michigan State University and saw "lantana trees".They were amazing!! Have these trees been grown from the annual plant we have...
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