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 Soils Questions

Will arctostaphylos grow in Austin, from Murrieta CA
April 23, 2013 - I currently live in Murrieta, CA at 2,000 ft. We planted 800 native plants on our slopes so they were extremely drought tolerant. One of my favorites is the Arctostaphylos family that will take the fr...
view the full question and answer

Problems with water oaks from Laurel MS
October 05, 2013 - The leaves on my mature water oak trees have been falling since the leaves matured. My area has had an abundance of rain this year, 11 inches above normal. All the trees in my area are doing the same....
view the full question and answer

Shriveling agave from Miami Florida
August 23, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Most upset - My beautiful agave (wish I could have submitted an image) has stared to misbehave. The once first liquid filled leaves, are starting to look more like the skin ...
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for planting trees in poor soils in Austin, TX
February 27, 2015 - Due to the clay soils and poor drainage in East Austin, what ornamental trees do you normally suggest?
view the full question and answer

Blooms on Desert Willow withering quickly in Rockwall TX
July 15, 2010 - Why do the blooms on my Desert Willow dry up and wither away in one or two days?
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center