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

Tuesday - August 28, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Cool, wet summer effect on evergreen sumac
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi Mr. Smarty Plants, I have 3 evergreen sumac bushes that I planted as a screen between my house and my neighbors two years ago. They are located in a part of our yard that receives a lot of runoff. However, the water drains within an hour. Despite all the rain we have had this year, the evergreen sumac plants were looking great. Then, the rain stopped and one by one they have begun to wilt. Based on my research on your site it appears they may all have the vascular fungal wilt. Is there anything I can do to save these plants ? If not, do you have any other suggestions of plants that are VF resistant that I can plant as an 8-10 foot screen? Thanks for your advice!

ANSWER:

First, thank you for researching your plant problems on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website. Now, it would appear you are correct that some sort of fungal problem is causing the wilt on your Rhus virens (evergreen sumac), after the weird summer of cool June and July with record amounts of rain, and then, suddenly, August. Think about it, though. How would you look if you had stood in mud with cold water showering on you for six weeks? As you probably established when you researched the subject, Rhus virens is a native of Texas, and its habitat is naturally dry hillsides and water needs low. All hope is not lost, though. Texas natives are tough and resilient, and somewhere in the genetic memory of your sumacs are other summers when the weather was very unusual, including lots of rain. Let's don't waste those roots, yet. Before you consider amputation, how about a Bandaid or two? The major enemies of any fungal disease are sunlight and air movement. So, begin, if you haven't already, pruning away the dead wood and opening up spaces in the plant for air circulation. Leave as many leaves as you can, though, as the plant needs those for nutrition. And don't let the plant completely dry out, either. Just because it had too much moisture for a while doesn't mean it has a reservoir stored away for dry, hot days.

Don't do anything else for now, because neither the plant nor the gardener need to be involved in excavation in the heat of August and September. If, in November, you are convinced your plants are dead, then it's not only pleasant enough to get out there and dig them up, but it's also a very good time to plant a replacement. May we suggest, for your requirements of screening between yards, Morella cerifera (wax myrtle). This Texas native will grow to about the same height as the sumac of 8 to 12 feet, and is very attractive to several species of birds and butterflies. Not only that, the leaves have a spicy fragrance that makes pruning less of a chore.


Rhus virens

Morella cerifera

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Will a Honeysuckle Shrub Damage a House Foundation?
May 31, 2013 - I'm thinking about buying a honeysuckle bush. I would like to plant it close to my house. Can the roots of this bush cause any damage to the foundation to the house?
view the full question and answer

Native climbing rose for Austin
April 25, 2010 - Is there such a thing as a native climbing rose that would do well in Austin?
view the full question and answer

Huckleberries and blueberries from Vancouver WA
April 14, 2013 - Can you plant a blueberry next to a huckleberry?
view the full question and answer

Plants for a sandy slope at a weekend cabin in central WI.
June 30, 2009 - I have a cabin in central Wisconsin where the soil is equivalent to a sandy beach. There are some areas that are nearly impossible to mow because of how steep the incline is. Could you recommend som...
view the full question and answer

Desert or littleleaf sumac (Rhus microphylla) on Texas State Capitol grounds
May 07, 2007 - I am trying to find out what kinds of plants are planted on the Texas State Capitol Grounds. There is a bush that grows around the Capitol Extension windows area and I don't know what they are. The...
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