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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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Thursday - July 17, 2008

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Container Gardens, Transplants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Blossom fall after rain on Polystachys lutea, Shrimp Lollipop
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in San Antonio and had previously bought shrimp lollipop plants and after the rain we had recently all the blooms fell off. So my question is did it die or should I just leave it alone?

ANSWER:

You had rain in San Antonio? What's going on? In Austin we can't get a break, or a drop, it seems. Anyway, sorry your plant was displeased with the rain. That does seem a little strange, as you usually consider rainwater to be the best moisture. However, on this PlantCare.com site on the Shrimp Lollipop plant (Polystachys lutea), we learned that it is most frequently treated as an indoor plant, since it is a tropical from Peru. And this site warned that the soil in the pot should be moist, but to be careful about watering with rainwater, as the water might be acidic. Another source warned not to water the plant with water that has been through the water softener, as the plant dislikes salt.

Don't treat the plant like it's dead, but try treating it as though it has transplant shock, which it very well may, although you didn't say when you bought it. It could have been already suffering from shock when that rain hit the blossoms, and they were knocked off. Apparently, in proper conditions, this plant can bloom nearly year-round, so a little extra care would probably be worth the effort. Trim off about 1/3 to 1/2 of the upper part of the plant, leaving as many leaves for nutrition on the lower part as possible. Don't fertilize-never fertilize a plant under stress. Keep the soil evenly moist, and maybe it would be better to avoid overhead watering, as with a sprinkler system, until you get a little better handle on the situation. If it begins to recover and shows signs of budding or blooming again, you might give it a little fertilizer that has a higher proportion of phosphorus (the middle number on fertilizer designations) to encourage blooming. Since this plant is a non-native to North America, it will not be in the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center Native Plant Database, so we can only give you experience from others who have grown the plant.

 

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