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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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Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

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

Questions From Near You

Houston , TX
Hurricane damage on oak in Houston
We have a very large oak tree that survived our last hurricane with lots of lost limbs. Then there was the drought. We have lost three large limbs on separate occasions on non-windy days. I love this ...
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Houston, TX
Instructions for composting in southeast Texas
Do you ever offer composting classes? I live in Houston and would like to start composting in my backyard... are there any particular books you would recommend for composting in SE TX? Thank you!
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Houston, TX
Problems with non-native Banana Shrub from Houston
My 7' beloved Banana Shrub (magnolia) has white dots on top of the leaves and nasty black stuff covering the backside of the leaves. The plant is dropping leaves. What can I do to save it? I has bee...
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Houston, TX
Is this a sycamore tree in Houston TX?
I believe I have a 6 year old American Sycamore planted in front of my condo. There are no seed pods (balls) ever on this tree. I thought all Sycamores have those. Is my tree too young to produce the ...
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Houston, TX
Failure to bloom of Texas Mountain Laurel
My +/- 4 yr old Tx. Mountain Laurel, has never bloomed. It is in full sun. I sometimes (minimal) fertilize it. I've pretty much planted it and let it grow. Its been pruned back last year when som...
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Houston, TX
Will a 10-ft. yaupon damage my septic lines in Texas Hill Country?
A 10 foot yaupon is growing in my Texas hill country septic field. The field pipe is 5 feet below the surface. Should I be concerned about the roots invading the pipes? What would be the best way to r...
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Houston, TX
USDA Hardiness Zones
Some natives are listed as ZONE 3 - 7. Would they be ok in zone 9. I thought the zones related to cold hardiness. What does the higher number mean, exactly?
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Houston, TX
Ligustrums planted last summer are doing poorly in Houston, TX.
I planted large mature ligustrums trees (~ 8 ft) last summer and the leaves are turning yellow and falling off. Can you please tell me what the cause of this might be and what we can do to prevent th...
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Houston, TX
Disposal of non-native invasive Houttuynia cordata
I am a homeower in The Woodlands with a very difficult problem in my butterfly garden. I have an impossibly invasive weed that I cannot get rid of -- so much so that I'm thinking of just paving ov...
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Houston, TX
Native grasses for central Georgia
We've just bought a 1990 circa house in Dallas, Georgia. It sits on a .62 acre lot. One half of the lot is woods, the rest is lawn. The lawn is covered mostly with weeds and wild strawberries. ...
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Houston, TX
Failure to thrive of Esperanza in Houston
Esperanza plant. I have 3 of these plant in my flower bed for the last 10 years. They get west sun. Over the last three years they have bloomed initially but then the new growth is deformed. The best...
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Houston, TX
Flowering Shrub for Houston, TX
I live in Houston, Texas and would like to plant a flowering shrub 3-6 feet in height. It will get sun to part sun, 2-6 hours daily. I have had azaleas in this area and am now looking for something to...
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Houston, TX
Possibly non-native succulent identification
My mother has a plant that grows on a stalk, 2.5' tall, leaves are about 4-5" on the mature plant. The leaves are scalloped on the edges and seeds grown in the scallops & fall off and make new plan...
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Houston, TX
Native plants for shady small spaces in Houston, TX
What are the best plants and flowers to plant in small spaces in an urban area in Houston, Texas? I have several flower beds that are 3 foot wide and 10-12 foot long that get half day sun. The area...
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Houston, TX
Native grass to replace St. Augustine in Houston
I read your answer to the question on the Houston Chronicle's website in relation to watering St. Augustine grass. You referred to St. Augustine as non-native, but from what I can gather St. Augusti...
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Houston, TX
A Pipevine poisonous to Pipevine Swallowtails
I have heard that a specific Pipevine is poisonous to the larva of Pipevine Swallowtails. Is this true? If so, what is the poisonous species of Pipevine, and what other types can I plant that will not...
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Houston, TX
Young yaupon trunks bending in Houston
I have new yaupon in this their second summer which are bending over about half-way up their trunk, at around two feet - do I trim them or stake them?
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Houston, TX
Fertilizing hayfield with wildflowers in Brenham TX
I have property near Brenham, TX that produces wild bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush and other wildflowers each year. I would like to fertilize the pastures to help with hay production (the grass is ha...
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Houston, TX
Need shrubs to form a barrier fence to exclude large dogs in Huntsvile, TX.
I'm seeking shrubs to form a barrier fence to strongly discourage free-roaming large dogs from entering a property in Huntsville, Texas. The site is currently just a grass yard basking in full sun, g...
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Houston, TX
Caterpillars on Carolina buckthorn (Frangula caroliniana)
I have a Carolina buckthorn and last year there were interesting looking caterpillars munching on the leaves. They were camouflaged to look a bit like bird droppings. The plant database makes no ment...
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Houston, TX
Comparison of native turf with St. Augustine and Kentucky bluegrass
The native turf page mentions outperforming Bermuda grass, St. Augustine, and Kentucky blue, but the graphs only compare the natives to Bermudagrass. How do the native mixes stand up to St. Augustine...
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