En Español

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?


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

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.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - August 11, 2014

From: Midland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Watering, Shrubs
Title: Recovery of water-stressed Agarita
Answered by: Guy Thompson


Hello! I planted a small agarita at the end of May and then left town for six weeks. During that time it was supposed to receive weekly deep irrigations to help it establish, but it seems that some weeks were missed and that in the other weeks the water may have been excessive. It now has many brown leaves - some entirely brown and some that are only green still in the very center. It really looks bad, though there are a few new young leaves that seem a healthy blue-green color. It also has three patches of webbing on it, but I don't see any holes in leaves. I was advised it may have been overwatered in my absence, so I have not yet watered it in the three weeks I've been home since (we did have a good rain nearly two weeks ago and I plan to water in a couple days.) Unfortunately it doesn't look any better than it did when I got home. Any advice for saving my plant? Thank you!


Once established, Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita) is pretty tough, surviving severe mistreatment of the above-ground parts.  If the roots of your plant have taken hold at all, the plant should recover if you prune off the dead branches, leaving only the green leaf-bearing stems.  If in doubt, scrape the bark on a questionable branch.  If green shows under the bark the branch is still alive.  Revove the webbing - there may still be barberry webworms inside.  They may have eaten many of the emerging new leaves.  Keep the soil moist.  If it feels moist to your finger that is enough.  Mulch the base of the plant to help conserve moisture.

Agarita grows relatively slowly.  I would give your plant plenty of time to reover, perhaps even pampering it well into the autumn.


More Watering Questions

Trumpet Vine Dropping Buds
July 25, 2013 - My trumpet vine is dropping its buds before flowering. This happened last year as well. Do you know what is causing this and what I can do to prevent it?
view the full question and answer

Effect of epsom salts and gray water on plants
December 04, 2007 - We live in Phoenix where water is a precious commodity. We have decided to use as much of the gray water as we can for watering our garden, shrubs and trees. One of the suggestions we heard about w...
view the full question and answer

Blackfoot daisy declining in Austin
September 04, 2010 - My Blackfoot Daisies have grown large, bushy, have bloomed well over the past two summers. Now parts of the plants are drying up, dying. Will pruning out the dead parts help the plants to survive, or ...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Texas Mountain Laurel in Dallas
May 04, 2010 - I have a Texas Mountain Laurel that is about 3 years old. When I bought it 2 summers ago, it was about a foot high. Now it is over 6 feet. It seems to have grown so fast that the branches can't ke...
view the full question and answer

Limp leaves on Texas purple sage in Magnolia TX
July 22, 2010 - Recently planted Texas purple sage, some of it looks healthy and has new blooms, but a few of the plants have limp leaves and are thin at the bottom. I read the article on cotton root rot, but am not ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center