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
2 ratings

Monday - July 21, 2008

From: Granite, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Getting rid of invasive, non-native Ailanthus altissimma, Tree of Heaven
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We live in Granite, MD and are trying to get rid of an invasive "tree of heaven". Based on a recommendation from a website dedicated to eradicating invasive plants,my husband cut down the tree which had a 3 inch trunk, drilled a hole in the stump and filled the hole with fertilizer. I think I erred by using a timed released fertilizer. The tree is throwing off sprouts from the roots. Is there something else we can do to get rid of it? Unfortunately it is located in the midst of an established flower bed. I appreciate any suggestions.


We couldn't agree with you more. That tree needs to go, and all the little treelets with it. The Plant Conservation Alliance Least Wanted site on this tree has excellent instructions on getting this tree out of your life, if you ever can. We're not sure where the recommendation to put fertilizer in a hole in the plant came from, we hadn't heard that one before. As you have apparently learned, it doesn't work. However, you would have had the sprouts from the roots no matter what you did, and if the tree is female, you will have sprouts from seeds for years. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center neither recommends for nor against herbicides, but the suggestions made in this article seem to be very apropos and well thought out. The gist of their advice is to treat an open cut with the suggested herbicide and do it quickly, within 10 or 15 minutes of making the cut. Apparently, the more cuts you make in the tree with applications of herbicide, the more effective it will be. Of course, you will have to be extremely careful, since it is in an established bed with desirable plants. Particularly note the cautions on letting the herbicide drip down from the cut into the dirt. It would appear that you can even cut down into the roots and inject some herbicide. The roots and their ability to survive will be your worst problem. And, despite all your efforts, be prepared to continue to hand remove sprouts for a long time, either from the roots or from seedlings. Of course, there's a lesson here. The best way to get rid of a pest is to never let it get its roots in the door.

More Non-Natives Questions

Problems with peonies in Indianola, WA
May 18, 2009 - My 5 year old peony plant didn't come up. I thought it was dead so I dug it up. I found a clump of thick roots. I separated them, and then realized these were probably the bulbs. It is the middle...
view the full question and answer

Promote blooms on non-native plants
June 11, 2008 - I am trying to promote blooms on my several types of flowering scrubs and ornamentals, but not having much luck. I have used Miracid SuperBloom occasionally but not sure I am using enough, yet I may ...
view the full question and answer

Non-native crapemyrtles changing color in Homer LA
June 23, 2009 - I have six natchez crape myrtles, 2 1/2 years old now. This year, one of them has started blooming in a lavender color. Have you ever heard of this?
view the full question and answer

Freeze damage to my Norfolk Island Pine in Houston, TX
March 18, 2010 - Houston, Texas experienced a rare 3-day snow event this winter that allowed snow to stay on my 20 ft. Norfolk Pine, in the ground for over 10 yrs. Every branch is now brown with all dead foliage. I ha...
view the full question and answer

Information about ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis)
May 06, 2008 - I recently planted some Carpobrotus edulis, Ice plant, and wanted to know if I can mulch or put stones around the entire garden and plants. They are a ground cover plant.
view the full question and answer

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