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
2 ratings

Monday - August 11, 2014

From: Terlingua, TX
Region: Select Region
Topic: Container Gardens, Watering, Drought Tolerant, Trees
Title: Leaves dropping from a potted Mesquite
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I have a Prosopis pubescens (Screwbean Mesquite) that I purchased at a nursery in Alpine, TX just a few miles away from me. It was a in nursery style black plastic container. The mesquite is perhaps a couple of years old or younger. I transplanted it earlier this past Spring into a large clay pot. I have the pot sitting on a bed of pea gravel on a clay saucer so that it doesn't actually sit in water. I water it in frequently since it is a native to this area and it seemed to be doing very well. It had a lot of new growth and leafed out very well and bloomed after I purchased it. The water here contains a lot of mineral salts so every two weeks I sweeten the water with a Sea Tea that I purchased that is Kelp and Fish. The mesquite produced a few screwbean pods as well. Some of the leaves on the tips of the branches are turning yellow, not everyone of them but enough to cause concern. That was a few weeks ago and now some of the green leaves are dropping. Not just A leaf but the entire leaf stem that contains the five to six individual leaves. Is it the clay pot do you think and that the roots are getting too hot or something else. I have it in a clay pot so I could move it to my property if I decide to place a home on it. At this time I rent, so my small garden is a container garden. I would appreciate any assistance with this.

ANSWER:

I think I know why your Prosopis pubescens (Screwbean mesquite) is dropping leaves.  As described in this web site, mesquites have huge root systems, both laterally and through their tap root.  Because of this, the plant can maintain a steady supply of moisture, even in moderate drought.  In severe drought leaves begin to drop, as mentioned in the web site.  Your mesquite, growing as it presently is in a relatively small pot, may experience a sudden shortage of water much more quickly than it would in nature because of its greatly constricted root system.  So your infrequent watering may not be enough.  You may need to water more frequently or use a drip system to provide a constant moisture level.

Since mesquites have evolved to drop their leaves during drought as a protective action, it is very likely that your plant will recover when a more steady water supply is available.

 

More Drought Tolerant Questions

Privacy screening shrubs from La Quinta CA
July 31, 2013 - I need a solid row of screen tree / shrubs that are at least 10 feet (prefer 12) tall and can be kept trimmed to a narrow (6 foot or less?) width. Will be planted against a 6' cement wall facing west...
view the full question and answer

Cenizo for border of school garden from Cedar Park TX
January 27, 2014 - Hi. We're starting a school garden in Central Texas, and instead of building a fence along one side, we'd like to plant a hedge. Ideally, it would grow tall enough to deter deer from jumping over, b...
view the full question and answer

Drought tolerant grass with little need for mowing for Hill Country of Texas
November 17, 2011 - What grass would you recommend for the hill country of Texas that is drought tolerant and does not need frequent mowing?
view the full question and answer

Drought resistant small tree for Ft. Worth TX
May 22, 2013 - I am looking for suggestions for a small tree (no more than 25 feet max)that is drought resistant but can handle a little irrigation and a lot of wind. Something showy is a plus. Grouped with salvias ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for sunny dry soil location
August 22, 2010 - Do any native plants exist in a highly sunny very dry soil location? (high overhang prevents rain but allows sun)
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