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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Tuesday - April 15, 2008

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Watering, Shrubs
Title: Failure to bloom of Texas Mountain Laurel
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My +/- 4 yr old Tx. Mountain Laurel, has never bloomed. It is in full sun. I sometimes (minimal) fertilize it. I've pretty much planted it and let it grow. Its been pruned back last year when someone suggested that and it still hasn't helped. What else can I try?

ANSWER:

You are not the only one to face this problem with Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel). Please read this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer to a similar question. Without being too repetitive, two or three possibilities come to mind. In the first place, you are in Houston, while this plant is used to growing in rocky soil on limestone ledges. This is not to say it won't grow in Houston, but make sure your drainage is very good. Your tree shouldn't be transplanted, it is very difficult to do so because of its roots, and if they are damaged the tree will most likely die. However, you can be careful not to have the tree in the path of any unusual water drainage, and water it much less than other garden plants. Second, this tree is often referred to as a "problematic" bloomer, meaning you might get blooms and you might not, period. Third, while its cultural information calls for full sun to part shade, it will bloom better in full sun. Prune after the flowering period (February to March), as it blooms on year-old wood, and cut way back on nitrogen fertilizer. Any plant will lose interest in blooming and put on more leaves if too much nitrogen is applied.

 

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