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

Friday - July 27, 2007

From: Ventura, CA
Region: California
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Watering, Shrubs
Title: Overwatering and fertilization of whiteleaf manzanita
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Hi, I have an Arctostaphylos Dr. Hurd, southern California coast, several years old, 10 feet, that has a few large branches with yellowing and spotted leaves... also dropping many. causes? remedy? should branches be cut out?


Arctostaphylos manzanita (whiteleaf manzanita) is a wonderful shrub or small tree, native in the U.S. only to California. Apparently the "Dr. Hurd" cultivar is the result of hybridization. We were unable to locate any specific references to what might be causing problems for your plant. Some clues we turned up include that it is very drought tolerant and much more garden tolerant in Southern California; that is, it can stand some of the special treatment you will give a garden plant. However, it does not tolerate too much watering, nor water standing around its roots. It needs good drainage so much that it will even do okay in beach sand, but not in salt spray. The cultivar Dr. Hurd also needs full sun, while some of the other manzanita varieties can tolerate some light or partial shade.

If you have not observed any insect infestation, and there has been no disturbance, such as construction or planting, around the roots, our best guess is that you have been treating your manzanita TOO well, watering, fertilizing, etc. as you would do other plants in your garden. Native plants are very tough, which is why we at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower center are so dedicated to their use and conservation. Natives are adapted to the conditions in which they originate, and need less of the kind of attention usually given to plants in the garden. The yellowing leaves, in particular, might lead us to suspect too much water or not good enough drainage. Certainly, don't cut out any branches that are not provably dead. Unfortunately, we can't write a prescription for a medicine that will make your plant all well, so we'll recommend watchful waiting, cut off the sprinkler system if you have one aimed at the plant, and hope its own native strengths will pull it through.



More Watering Questions

Why did mountain laurel turn brown and die?
July 20, 2011 - I have (had) a lovely mountain laurel that I planted more than 25 years ago. Many times one or two branches would turn brown and I would trim them out. The shrub is about 10 feet tall and is many tr...
view the full question and answer

PVC pipes for irrigation in ground in Austin
August 19, 2009 - Mr. Smarty Plants,What are your thoughts on installing PVC pipes into the ground around trees and shrubby trees? A classmate's grandmother had a pipe pushed or pounded into the ground near her speci...
view the full question and answer

Effects of greywater on plants and soil
July 25, 2008 - What are the biochemical effects of greywater in plants and soil, because both are related. The effects can be harmful and as well as beneficial, can you give me the details of that?
view the full question and answer

Leaf fall from Cedar Elm planted in clay
August 17, 2008 - I saw the answer to leaves falling off a cedar elm planted in clay. However I planted a Cedar Elm in my back yard. I dug a hole in the grass then planted and put grass back on top. I water every other...
view the full question and answer

Correct cultural conditions for liatris
April 15, 2008 - I recently bought some gayfeather (liatris pycnostachya) and planted in my yard in a nice full sun spot. Gets sun for roughly 10 hours a day. However, it's also the single driest spot in my yard (jus...
view the full question and answer

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