Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
5 ratings

Monday - May 12, 2008

From: The Colony, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Trees
Title: Natural lifespan of wild plum trees
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have a small border of Wild Plum Trees in our yard. Every year it seem that one or two of the biggest trees die. Do they have a specific life span? We transplanted the trees/bushes from the panhandle area. They have been growing for about 15 years.

ANSWER:

First, we needed to establish which wild plum you have, so we looked at the members of the Prunus genus that are found native in Texas.

Prunus gracilis (Oklahoma plum) is found in the Panhandle of Texas. It is a straggly, thicket-forming shrub that may reach 6' in height, but is not usually that tall.

Prunus havardii (Havard's plum) is found only in one or two spots in far West Texas. It is another thicket-forming shrub. Image

Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum) is native to a small section of the Panhandle and North Central Texas. It is actually a tree in shape, can grow from 12' to 35' tall.

Prunus rivularis (creek plum) is found in Central and North Central Texas; yet another thicket-forming shrub.

Prunus texana (peachbush) is found only in far South Texas, endemic to the Edwards Plateau and the Rio Grande Plains.

Since we don't know which one of these you have or if, indeed, you have a hybrid that we wouldn't even have in our Native Plant Database, we tried to find out what the average age of plum trees, whether actual trees or shrubs, might be. The best we could find out was that 10 to 15 years in the landscape was about the best you could hope for. Some orchards got as old as 30 years old, but that was not the usual thing.

We found this article from the Texas Gardener Magazine by Dr. Larry Stein "So what do we do with old fruit trees?" It has a great deal of excellent information about deciding when it's time to give up on a fruit tree. His main point is that they will live and produce longer if they are properly cared for when they are first planted, in terms of water, keeping weeds away, etc. If your trees are at least 15 years old, show no insect damage or root disturbance, they are probably dying at about the expected age. If you would like to continue your hedge with the same plants, see this article from the University of Florida Extension Propagation of Woody Ornamentals by Cuttings.


Prunus gracilis

Prunus mexicana

Prunus rivularis

Prunus texana

 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Butterfly bushes and weed killer in Pueblo West CO
August 27, 2011 - I have 3 previously healthy butterfly bushes that have one by one developed masses of tiny yellowish-green compact leaves. The entire bush went from its normal healthy appearance to something that res...
view the full question and answer

Problems with hibiscus in Florida
November 09, 2008 - Have a hibiscus in Florida. It has always done beautifully planted in the ground. This year, it has developed something where the branches are sort of white, and the buds (and ends of branches) look ...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on lantana in Dallas
September 14, 2005 - For several years, the lantana plants in my backyard in Dallas grew and bloomed all Summer and Fall until the first real cold snap. I've loved having a native plant that didn't need constant care a...
view the full question and answer

Yellowing of Leyland Cypress in Roswell, GA
April 27, 2010 - We paid for 12 foot naylor blue leyland's to be planted behind our home. This is their first season in the ground here - they came from a tree farm - there is yellowing on some of the branches and w...
view the full question and answer

Salt from water softener affecting roses.
October 12, 2007 - I have a water softener at my well and wonder if an accumulation of salt over time is causing problems for my roses. After several years of doing really well the branches turn brown and eventually die...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.