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?

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
1 rating

Friday - August 01, 2008

From: Denver, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Failure to thrive of non-native Lamium maculatum
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello: Approximately 3 to 4 years ago I planted approximately 20 Lamium Beacon Silver plants in a shaded area of my yard, with limited sun. The first year they seemed very hearty and expanded. I certainly thought they would take over the entire area as I wanted them to do. Each year they keep dying out, so that now very little is left of them. What can I do to revive them? They are on a spray system for water (well) and are in the shade of a tree. Is there a way to treat the soil or fertilize the plants so they will grow, or should I replace with something else? Thanks for your help.

ANSWER:

Lamium maculatum is a non-native spreading groundcover, having originated in Europe and Asia. "Beacon Silver" is a named variety of the plant, with color variagation. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we encourage the use of plants native to the area in which they are being grown, because those plants will already be acclimated to the soil, ordinary rainfall and fertilizer needs of the area. Since it is not native, we have no information on the plant in our Native Plant Database, but will try to find some answers to your question.

From this Ohio State University Education site Lamium maculatum we found this list of what Lamium maculatum expects in order to thrive:

  • partial shade to full shade
  • needs an evenly moist, well-drained, moderately rich soil in partial shade for optimum performance; not at all urban tolerant, including a disdain for poor soils, poorly drained soils, compacted soils, heat, prolonged drought, or sunny spots
  • propagated by crown division, lifting of rooted stem segments, or rooted stem cuttings
  • Mint Family, with no disease problems, but slug and snail pest problems may cosmetically affect the foliage on occasion, and exposure to excessive sun and drought will scorch the foliage and lead to dieback
  • often melts out in the heat of Summer (that is, the Spring foliage and stems die back to the original crown or new peripherally-rooted crowns), but may rejuvenate in the coolness of Autumn

We wouldn't think that in Denver high Summer heat would cause dieback, but if the stand has only the shade of a tree, perhaps it does not extend far enough to satisfy the conditions the plant needs. Also, if you did not begin with a rich soil, well-drained, it would be difficult to go back and fix that now. On the same site, under Liabilities, Lamium maculatum was characterized as being subject to crown or stem rot in moisture retentive situations (frequent irrigation, poorly drained location or heavy rain periods) and mass groundcover plantings often develop "holes" as individual plants die.

This USDA Plant Profile for Lamium maculatum does not show the plant growing at all in Colorado, or the other western states. That would indicate a possible problem with the natural soils in the area. Whether it would be worth it to completely redo the area, making amendments to increase the drainage and even perhaps alter the soil composition, would be a decision only you could make.

If you decide to abandon the Lamium, you might go to our Native Plant Suppliers area. Type in your city and state in the Enter Search Location box, and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscape professionals in your general area. They can probably make a much more educated suggestion on alternative groundcovers than we could.

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Propagation of non-native Jerusalem Sage from Marble Falls, TX
October 11, 2010 - What is the best way to propagate Jerusalem Sage? I've located a plant and I want to get some going.
view the full question and answer

Non-native Filaree seeds for science classroom
May 30, 2008 - Can I purchase Filaree seeds for my science classroom? If so, where?
view the full question and answer

Growing Florist Roses
January 23, 2016 - Often I find that florist roses sprout for me, but I fail to get them to grow into a bush. Do you have the answer?
view the full question and answer

Non-native Purple Hyacinth from Sylvania OH
May 21, 2012 - I am wondering if I plant a Purple Hyacinth Bean vine seed under a tree and allow it to grow up the tree trunk, will it kill the tree?
view the full question and answer

Prairie remnant threatened by non-native Queen Anne's lace in Dallas
June 09, 2010 - A blackland prairie remnant is being invaded by Queen Ann's Lace. What are the best, least chemical, methods of getting rid of it without damaging the native grasses and wildflowers? Thank you!
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center