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

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

What variations of non-native Lavender will grow in Montgomery County TX
June 18, 2011 - I live in East Montgomery County, Texas. What varieties of Lavender grow best in my area? I had some success with Providence variety and Spanish variety. I would like to grow more varieties if possi...
view the full question and answer

Dwarf oyster plant dying in Sunrise FL
July 06, 2012 - WHAT WOULD BE KILLING MY DWARF OYSTER PLANTS
view the full question and answer

Replacements for non-native purple fountain grass in Austin
September 26, 2009 - Hi-- Just found out that the purple fountain grass I bought (fortunately on sale) is a) not native and b)not perennial. Dang it! If I can find the pots I'm taking it back. I have a part-shade wel...
view the full question and answer

Comment on previous answer from Austin
October 15, 2013 - Ms Bradford, You just answered my question about St. Augustine grass.. actually, you didn't answer it.. You said "sorry, wrong number". Very funny. I think you misunderstood... I would rather no...
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native artichoke from El Paso, TX
May 25, 2014 - I have a five year old artichoke plant in the ground that gets sun and some shade, has plenty of fertilizer and compost. Gets enough water. It has been beautiful in years past and last year had 10 a...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center