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
1 rating

Monday - June 02, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Butterfly Gardens
Title: Dieback of Indigo Spires and whirling butterfly
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have an Indigo Spires plant that is turning yellow and dying back. I have fed it but nothing seems to perk it up. I also have whirling butterfly plants that are losing leaves and dying back. What do you think might be happening? I thought both were hearty, hard -to- destroy plants, adapted well to Central Texas. Thanks

ANSWER:

Indigo Spires, sometimes called Mystic Spires, is thought to be a hybrid between Salvia farinaceae and S. longispicata. It was found growing at the Huntingdon Botanical Gardens in California in the 1970s. The botanist who discovered and named it noticed that it the new plant was growing near the other two, and theorized that it was an accidental hybrid. Salvia farinacea (mealycup sage) is a Central Texas native, but the S. longispicata is something of a mystery, thought to be native to Mexico. In fact, when we went googling to try to find information about it, it was always in combination with S. farinacea to make Indigo Spires. When you're unclear about the parentage of a plant, it is very difficult to diagnose problems or recommend care. So, we found some facts, including in our Native Plant Database, about S. farinacea, and hope they will apply to the mix of two salvia. We learned that salvias hate to have wet winter feet, but also hates having roots dry out and will quickly die when that happens. If your salvia was in a poorly drained bed, it might be suffering from drowned roots. It's more likely, however, since we didn't have much winter rain, that the salvias are suffering from being dried out. You are going to need to trim out the upper part of the plant anyway, to take some of the strain off the roots, and then make sure it has moist soil around the roots. Under ordinary circumstances, it is advised to cut back old flower stems when new basal foliage begins to appear. Don't fertilize until the plant is recovered, if it recovers, and we hope it does. Just as an aside, hybrids like this are sterile, or their seeds will not breed true to the original plant. If you wish to propagate it, take stem cuttings.

Whirling Butterflies is a trade name given to Gaura lindheimeri (Lindheimer's beeblossom). The Genus, Gaura, is easily recognized but species names are more difficult due partly to a great deal of hybridization. The Gaura lindheimer is a native of Louisiana west to Texas and Mexico, and can be invasive. So, again, we're just going to try to find pests or problems of Gaura, without knowing the exact parentage. About all we could find out was that there are no serious pests or diseases and, indeed, it is considered an invasive weeds in many parts of the country. It has a long taproot, like a carrot, and attempts should not be made to transplant it, because it is difficult to avoid damaging that taproot. It would appear that because of our early hot Spring, both of the plants you are concerned about are reacting more like it was the middle of summer. Trimming them back pretty hard and then making sure they have water with very good drainage should perk them up. In times of intense heat, many plants will go semi-dormant, allowing their leaves to roll or fold up, to conserve moisture. Try trimming back all that excess foliage and dried leaves, and let the green leaves on the basal area keep things going. Even plants need a vacation.

 

More Butterfly Gardens Questions

Butterfly egg kit from Spring Hill FL
October 27, 2011 - Could you please tell me all native plant(s) I can buy for my Sons Painted Lady Butterfly kit (eggs are going to hatch soon)and I don't know what to buy for the baby caterpillars to eat. I contacted ...
view the full question and answer

Growing butterfly weed as a girl scout project
July 30, 2012 - We have a group of girl scouts who want to sell 'crafts' at a farmers market. I am wanting to steer the moms and girls in a different direction. I was wondering if you think that butterfly weed woul...
view the full question and answer

Help finding and growing milkweeds for monarch butterflies
August 01, 2011 - I would like to participate in your "Monarch Waystation" program. Knowing how milkweeds generally don't transplant well, and I have poor luck getting them to propagate from seeds, could you please...
view the full question and answer

Winter care of Asclepias tuberosa from Austin
October 31, 2013 - We have several asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed). Monarch caterpillars have found and denuded them. We are excited about all of the Monarch caterpillars, but unsure of what to do next. What do we...
view the full question and answer

What species of Aristolochia occur in Hidalgo County, TX?
August 06, 2009 - What species of Aristolochia or are in the Aristolochiaceae family occur in the Lower Rio Grande Valley, particularly Hidalgo Co., TX. Both Pipevine and Polydamas Swallowtail butterflies occur down h...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center