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?

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

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 - November 02, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Seasonal Tasks, Transplants, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Optimum planting time for perennials and trees
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our group is running out of fall workdays. Is it OK to plant native perennials and small trees in Central Texas during the winter months? Or should we wait now until the spring?

ANSWER:

November, December and January have always been our favorite time to plants woody plants. If you already have them, then certainly the sooner you get them in the ground, the better. You don't want the roots to dry out, and you sure don't want them out of the ground when the first freeze comes. The ground is a great insulator, and will keep the new roots from being damaged. You should try very hard to avoid transplant shock-in other words, get water in the loose soil around the roots, at a small dribble from a hose, about 3 times a week. The average first frost in Austin is usually about December 1, but in this temperate region, the ground does not freeze, and frosts usually last only a few hours. While the plants are in dormancy during cooler weather, the moisture in the plant is down around the base and in the roots. A plant can be severely damaged or killed by a heavy, hard frost freezing the water in the plant. The cell walls can burst when the water expands as it freezes, and the damage can be fatal. Another protection for the newly planted trees and perennials is a good, thick coat of an organic mulch over their root systems. This will hold moisture in the soil, further insulate the roots, and as it decomposes, add still more warmth and help to enrich the soil.

If the plants are being held in plastic pots and a freeze is predicted, a friendly garage, if one is available, would be a good place to store them. Plastic is no insulator, and can get very cold and very hot, to match the outside temperature. And if you are holding plants in pots, be sure to keep them watered. Even in dormancy, some moisture is needed, and a plant without its roots in the earth is very susceptible to drying out.

To sum up, a plant waiting to be transplanted into a permanent position, and with its roots out of the ground, is better off being planted just about any time, but the best time is when it's cool and the plants are in dormancy.

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Fertilizer producing leaves over flower production in Austin
June 27, 2010 - Can you please list which Central Texas perennials' will favor leaf growth over flower production when fertilized? I have many in the "Grown Green" booklet and need to know which flowering plants s...
view the full question and answer

Goldsturm Rudbeckia Stunted and Doesn't Bloom
April 16, 2015 - I have Goldsturm Rudbeckia that never flowers nor gets taller than 4 inches. Meanwhile, my phlox does fantastic in the same area. This area is sand top dressed with black dirt. Please help! Goldst...
view the full question and answer

Making Ruellia nudiflora thicker in pot from Tucson AZ
June 25, 2012 - Can Ruellia Nudiflora be propagated in the same pot as the parent plant? Can it be cut back to stimulate a denser plant? I have plants in several pots and would like to 'thicken' the plant. Tha...
view the full question and answer

Will Canada geese eat Asclepias tuberosa from Cape May Court, NJ
May 20, 2014 - Will Canada geese eat my butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa)? I know this plant is deer resistant. I really want to plant some on sandy bank near pond in my back yard, but I fear the geese will ...
view the full question and answer

What is the black stuff growing on my thoroughwort?
October 27, 2015 - What is the black stuff on my thoroughwort plant's leaves that is killing the plant?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center