En EspaŅol

Q. Who is Mr. Smarty Plants?

A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

Help us grow by giving to the Plant Database Fund or by becoming a member

Did you know you can access the Native Plant Information Network with your web-enabled smartphone?

Share

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.

Search Smarty Plants
    
 
See a list of all Smarty Plants questions
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - May 01, 2014

From: Lago Vista, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Seasonal Tasks, Trees
Title: Late planting plum tree from Lago Vista, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have two plum trees in plastic containers that I purchased in March. For a lot of reasons, we didn't get them planted. I have kept them alive by watering consistently, but I am now wondering what to do with them. Is it ok to plant them in May? Should I transfer them to larger plastic pots and try to keep them alive during the summer and plant them next fall?

ANSWER:

First, please read this Previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer  concerning the fact that we may not have the plant you bought as a 'plum tree" in our Native Plant Database.

Since we do not know which species of plum tree you are referring to, we will go for a species of the Prunus (plum) genus native to Travis County to use as an example, since the rules for planting woody plants in Texas are pretty much the same across the board. The two plum trees with the name "plum" that are native to Travis County are Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum) and Prunus rivularis (Creek plum). You can follow those two links to our webpage on that plant to find the spot in your garden that comes the closest to matching the growing conditions of the tree (sun? soil moisture? soil?) before you ever get the shovel out of the garage.

Now, the difference between planting that tree now or waiting until the optimum time to plant a woody plant (trees and shrubs), which is December and January, is which way will there be least damage? March, when you bought that tree, was already late in the planting season. It may have stood on the nursery floor since September in that same black plastic pot. It may have roots growing round and round inside the pot, and be rootbound. Leaving it in that black plastic pot, especially in the hot Texas sun, can basically cook the roots.

Obviously, our advice is get it out of that pot and into the ground NOW. The best time for this is late in the day, nearly dark, so that in the first few hours the baby roots are trying to adjust to their new environment they are not also roasting in the sun. Read our Step-by-Step article on How to Plant a Tree. We always like to mix a little good quality compost into the extra dirt that we dig out of the hole, and return the mix to the hole around the roots of the tree. This will help with drainage and also help to make micro-nutrients in the soil available to the little new roots.

Water the tree by sticking a hose down into the soft dirt around the tree and letting it barely dribble until the surface is moist. Do this at least twice a week, unless there is some good soaking rain, for the first several weeks and then once a week until Fall.

And next time you want a tree, buy it in late Fall and plant it THEN.

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Mexican plum
Prunus mexicana

Mexican plum
Prunus mexicana

Creek plum
Prunus rivularis

Creek plum
Prunus rivularis

More Seasonal Tasks Questions

Bermuda, not the only option in Memphis
November 04, 2014 - I'm building an energy efficient home in Memphis and want to extend that strategy to the landscaping. I'd like to plant native grasses, but this lot is surrounded by lots sodded with Bermuda grass....
view the full question and answer

Cutting back achillea in New York
March 18, 2009 - Last summer I planted three gorgeous hearty achillea with flat, yellow tops, about 3 feet high or more each, in my sunny garden. But after they were done flowering, I left those very pretty brown stem...
view the full question and answer

Using a brush hog on acreage on Bear Creek in Austin, TX.
July 25, 2012 - We have 8 acres off 1826 situated on Bear Creek. It has open areas with scattered large trees (cedar elm, live oak, white oak). Cedars or junipers only along the the lot lines. We've been told we...
view the full question and answer

Leaves on 3 year old maple turning brown in Lebo, KS.
July 16, 2011 - Hello, one of our five Maple trees which is is 3 yrs. old now, we saw a week ago that the leaves started turning brown and dropping. My question is: Will the tree survive this and return healthy next ...
view the full question and answer

What to do about cold damage to spineless prickly pear?
March 05, 2010 - In Austin, Texas our 'spineless' prickly pear cactus is about 6' wide by 4' tall. In the last severe freeze, the top half flattened out and has remained that way. Should I cut the flattened pads o...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center