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
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

Leaf fall from Cedar Elm planted in clay
August 17, 2008 - I saw the answer to leaves falling off a cedar elm planted in clay. However I planted a Cedar Elm in my back yard. I dug a hole in the grass then planted and put grass back on top. I water every other...
view the full question and answer

Fireplace ash as soil amendment in Maine
September 28, 2011 - It seems that the custom where we summer in Maine is to dispose of wood ash from the fireplace on the plants around the outside of the house. I think this is not a good idea. What is your opinion? I w...
view the full question and answer

Soils for Acacia greggii and Bauhinia lunarioides
May 02, 2007 - What kind of soil do you recommend for anacacia tree? I was stunned by the one blooming at Center. I have had one for years and it has not been happy. I figure it must be the soil.
view the full question and answer

Native plants for clay soil in Lathrop MO
March 21, 2011 - My family just moved to the north Kansas City, MO area and would like to know what native species, both perennial and tree, will do best in the clay soil. It has already proven problematic as we have ...
view the full question and answer

Amending soil for butterfly garden in Houston
April 01, 2013 - My girl scout troop will be planting a butterfly garden at a middle school in Houston. In researching plants to use, we have come across some such as echinacea, rose vervain, galliarda and Texas gay...
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