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
1 rating

Monday - April 14, 2008

From: Boerne, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Watering, Trees
Title: Sudden death of Texas Mountain Laurel
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Last year, my 15-year-old Mountain Laurel died very suddenly. The leaves began to curl up and turn brown, and it was dead within about 15 days. What happened?


Since you didn't mention any sort of insect disturbance or contamination from spraying nearby with herbicides, we are guessing that your tree died by drowning. Boerne, between San Antonio and Kerrville on US Hwy. 87, should ordinarily be dry enough to satisfy the needs of the Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) for good drainage. However. last year's weather was very unusual in Central Texas, and we had an awful lot of rain. If your Mountain Laurel had survived that many years, it could mean that the drainage where it was planted had not been challenged. If it was under roof drainage, in the path of runoff, or just in a hole with bad drainage, the roots may have stood in water longer that it could survive. Obviously, there's nothing you can do to recover your lost tree; however, if you choose to replace it, be aware of the drainage needs. Don't plant it somewhere that could be in the path of heavy runoff, work some humus (compost, etc.) into the soil, and make sure it's not at the bottom of a slope or a dip in the property. This tree is accustomed to growing on limestone shelves, with rocks for soil, and water a rarity.

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora



More Watering Questions

Grouping plants according to water needs
February 05, 2010 - Explain how appropriate design/grouping of plants of the same water needs would make irrigation scheduling easier?
view the full question and answer

Plant for graveside in New Jersey
August 07, 2010 - I am looking for a plant to put on a graveside in southern New Jersey. The problem is that the area is very hot & dry and the plant would only receive rain. I am interested in a perennial. Thanks
view the full question and answer

Non-native lambs ears wilting in heat from Fredericksburg TX
October 19, 2011 - 3 days ago I had professional landscaping done in an area with plants that tolerate heat & sun well. We planted 7 healthy, large lambs ear & mulched. Everything planted is doing well except the lambs ...
view the full question and answer

Plants around swimming pool
June 23, 2009 - What kind of plants can I plant around my swimming pool and will not be harmed by the chemicals of the pool?
view the full question and answer

Trumpet Vine Dropping Buds
July 25, 2013 - My trumpet vine is dropping its buds before flowering. This happened last year as well. Do you know what is causing this and what I can do to prevent it?
view the full question and answer

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