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?


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


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.


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 Watering Questions

Need help with my Mountain Laurel in Sugarland, TX
June 22, 2011 - Texas Mountain Laurel - My plant's leaves are turning yellow and falling off. I don't know if this is caused from over watering or under watering. I have skipped days of watering to see if it will h...
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

Shriveling agave from Miami Florida
August 23, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Most upset - My beautiful agave (wish I could have submitted an image) has stared to misbehave. The once first liquid filled leaves, are starting to look more like the skin ...
view the full question and answer

Powdery mildew hits Rock Rose in Round Rock Texas
May 05, 2011 - My beautiful Rock Roses have gotten spots of white fuzzy "fur" on their leaves in the past month. This is not something they have ever had before and I'm worried its some kind of disease. Is it so...
view the full question and answer

How will my Texas Mountain Laurel survive clay soil?
June 09, 2009 - Mr. Smarty Pants: I live in a new neighborhood (brownfield site) in Central Austin where the developers have put fill in the yards. After not much more than 2 inches of topsoil you encounter fairl...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center