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

Sunday - September 16, 2007

From: hagerstown, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Care of non-native house plant, probably Coleus
Answered by: Barbara Medford


What would cause the new leaves of a house plant to be solid green? When I bought it, the original leaves were almost like a "tie-dye" fabric (green,yellow,orange, and red).


Most house plants are non-native tropical or sub-tropical plants. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is committed to the protection and propagation of native plants, because of the economic and environmental benefits. However, we are always glad to help out with plant care, and will see if we can figure out why you're not getting the leaf colors you expect.

Although you didn't say what the plant was, we suspect from your description that it may be a form of coleus. Solenostemon scutellarioides is a southeast Asian species which has been popular as a house plant since Victorian times. It has been extensively hybridized to include most colors of the spectrum except true blue. The first clue we found to why your plant's new leaves are green is that the colors of coleus tend to be more pronounced in a shaded area. In other words, if you have it in a sunny window, try a slightly less bright area. The second suggestion is that you might be feeding it too much plant food. Excessive nitrogen will turn the leaves of most plants greener, and thus thwart the bright colors from appearing. And, finally, it could be that just the new leaves are green; as they mature they may very well begin to show their colors.

So, in summary: dim the light, cut down on the fertilizer, and increase the patience. Hopefully, those new leaves will grow up to be tie-dyed.


More Non-Natives Questions

Replacement of Arizona ash in Austin
October 28, 2011 - We have two Arizona Ashes in our yard that probably have maybe a decade left in them. We want to get a couple new trees started, so they will be well established once the Ashes are near their end. In ...
view the full question and answer

Ways to eliminate non-native bermuda grass from West Columbia SC
July 01, 2010 - Could you kill bermuda grass by heavy over-fertilizing it? Or black, solid plastic cloth? Thanks
view the full question and answer

Replanting of non-native Christmas Palm from Sarasota FL
November 28, 2012 - Do you know of a proven technique to plant a Christmas Palm in a built-in concrete pool deck planter box - using gravel around the soil root ball to delay the root bound condition we just ripped out?
view the full question and answer

Replacement for non-native Sago palms in Austin
November 28, 2010 - We have two pillars, one on each side of our front door. There is a sago palm in front of each pillar. It is a dramatic and beautiful look, but the palms, facing north and in shade, are growing so tha...
view the full question and answer

Invasive, non-native Paulownia
May 03, 2006 - Hi. We would like to plant a fast growing tree that will provide shade for our house. What do you think of the Paulownia tree (Empress Tree) as a possibility for the Austin area? If this is not a g...
view the full question and answer

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