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: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Diseases and Disorders, Pests, Transplants, Shrubs
Title: Problems with non-native Banana Shrub from Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

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 been in a big pot for 13 years and when I saw the white spots and black nasty stuff last week, I transplanted the root bound tree into the ground where it will get more sun. I pulled open the roots and cut them as best I could. I have been spraying and wiping the leaves, top and bottom with Palmolive dish soap in water for three days now. But the tree looks very sick. Please, please help. Madalene Hill of Festival Hill in roung Top gave me this tree 13 years ago so it is very dear to me.

ANSWER:

We were very confused when you referred to your plant as a Banana Shrub (magnolia). Here is information we got from Wikipedia:

"Magnolia figo (also called Banana Shrub, Port Wine Magnolia, Michelia figo) is an evergreen tree growing to 3-4 m tall. It is native to China. Susceptible to black soot."

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, protection and propagation of plants native not only to North America but also to the area in which those plants are being grown; in your case, Harris Co., TX. That is what confused us, we knew that Banana Shrub was not in our Native Plant Database but magnolias are native to North America and, in fact, Magnolia grandiflora (Southern magnolia), is native to Harris County.

Magnolia figo, alas, is not, but is native to China. This puts it out of our area of expertise; however, we might be able to make a couple of suggestions as to what is wrong. The first thing that comes to mind is aphids - they are small white bugs, and deposit aphid poop on the bottom side of leaves of affected plants, which then turns a moldy black. Check out this article from the University of California Integrated Pest Management on what that pest looks like and how to deal with it. The article from Wikipedia also mentioned "Susceptible to black soot." When we searched the Internet on "black soot plant disease" we got this article from Gardening Know How on Sooty Mold. When we read that article it sounded a whole lot like aphids, again, were causing the problem. Hopefully, from one or the other you will get help for your plant.

 

More Shrubs Questions

Red buckeye not blooming in NY
July 04, 2011 - I planted my red buckeye in September 2007 and it was about 18 inches tall. It is now a few inches short of 5ft. tall. I have had it in the ground for nearly 4 yrs and it has never bloomed. I have fr...
view the full question and answer

Damaged leaves on bottlebrush buckeye from Glen Mills PA
June 09, 2013 - My recently planted bottlebrush buckeye plants' leaves are looking damaged but it doesn't look like insect or fungus damage. They look battered by wind but I don't understand why that would happen...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a Narrow, Dry, Shaded Site in Georgia
April 03, 2014 - I am writing from Valdosta, GA. Could you please suggest three perennial shrubs and/or plants that flower at different times of the spring and summer? Also ones that can be planted in a 2 ft. wide s...
view the full question and answer

Yucca rostrata needs some help in Austin, TX.
September 16, 2013 - We planted an expensive 5-6 foot Yucca rostrata last fall. It bloomed beautifully in the spring. We installed an irrigation link to water the recently planted areas with succulents, viburnums, spart...
view the full question and answer

Leaf burn on hydrangeas
July 11, 2008 - What causes my leaves to burn on my healthy hydrangeas?
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center