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
4 ratings

Sunday - March 30, 2008

From: SAN ANTONIO, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Soils, Shrubs
Title: Non-blooming Texas Mountain Laurel
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Two questions: 1. My mountain laurel (10 yrs old) has never had blooms. Is this a gender plant issue? 2. I have been seeking a groundcover that grows in shade and will take foot (dog) traffic. Ideas?

ANSWER:

All the information we can find on Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) says that it is a very slow grower and a "problematic" bloomer. First of all, it is not a gender issue. The flowers of the mountain laurel are hermaphrodite, having both male and female flowers, and are pollinated by insects. The flowers attract both butterflies and bees, so you wouldn't think the problem would be a shortage of pollinators, but you have to have flowers to pollinate! So, let's look at the cultural practices. At ten years, if the plant itself is prospering, it should be blooming, problematic or not. Although a lot of the information says it will grow in part shade, it will definitely bloom better if it is in full sun. Obviously, with a plant that size, you're not going to be moving it into a sunnier spot, but perhaps there are shrubs or trees around it that could be trimmed back to provide more sunlight. Second, don't fertilize it, especially not with nitrogen-high fertilizer, such as lawn fertilizers. The plant is a legume, and has an internal mechanism that permits it to fix nitrogen in the soil, some of which it uses itself, and some of which can be used by other plants. Many plants are adversely affected in terms of blooms when they are over-treated with nitrogen. Yet another suggestion is that it be pruned. Your plant is already past the bloom period in this part of the country. The mountain laurel produces flowers only on one-year-old wood. Pruning now, getting out weak branches, trimming off long, thin stems, and general cleanup should propel it into blooming on that new wood that will sprout after the trimming. And, remember, when you DO get blooms (as we hope you will) the seeds are extremely poisonous and should be kept from access by children and pets.

On your second question, we have three suggestions for low-growing groundcover that will grow in part shade. Remember, even very sturdy, invasive non-native lawngrasses like St. Augusting and Bermuda can get trails beaten into them by dogs making their persistent rounds, but if the dog is just crossing the area now and again, these should all be fine.

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit)

Dichondra argentea (silver ponysfoot)

Hydrocotyle bonariensis (largeleaf pennywort)


Sophora secundiflora

Phyla nodiflora

Dichondra argentea

Hydrocotyle bonariensis

 

 

 

More Pruning Questions

Freeze damage on perennials in Austin
December 10, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, The recent hard freeze in Austin really took a toll on the plants I put in the ground in early October. The leaves of my salvia, lantana and esperanza are completely black! ...
view the full question and answer

Survival of yucca plant mowed down in Oklahoma
April 15, 2009 - I have a yucca plant that came from a very old plant of my late father, and had transplanted it 6 years ago and it came back every year and bloomed. This morning I went outside and noticed my husband...
view the full question and answer

Rose care for Austin
August 18, 2013 - I am a transplant from the Pacific NW and need to relearn rose care for Austin. When is the best time to cut back the roses, or do I even bother? I also need to find out how far back I can trimming a...
view the full question and answer

Can I trim back my 20 ft Yucca plant?
May 11, 2009 - I have a yucca tree which is about 20 ft. tall, has four main trunks. I would like to prune it to approx. 10 ft. but wonder if that will kill it or if new shoots will come out up near the cut.
view the full question and answer

Pruning Ageratina havenensis from Magnolia TX
June 18, 2013 - I planted a Eupatorium havanense last year here in the last sandy finger of the piney woods; it gets full sun in a well-drained raised bed, where it flowered well. I pruned it fairly close, and it cam...
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