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
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - November 15, 2008

From: Spicewood, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Propagation, Seeds and Seeding
Title: Information about growing mountain laurels (Sophora secundiflora)
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Sean Watson


I live just outside of Austin on 10 acres. I have several very large mountain laurels on my property that I planted from containers. Mine flower profusely every year. I feed them bi-weekly and water them as needed. Since I have great flowers every year, I have great seed-pods every year (about 5000 seeds/year from these three)and I have planted the seeds around my property and have many small ones growing now. I am thinking of mass growing them in containers to sell to those who love them as much as I do. Can you give me your input as to what I should use for the soil in the containers? What should the PH level be of the soil? And what other advice would you give for this kind of endeavor? I have always fed mine with Miracle Grow and the flower results and growth of them has been incredible. They were about 2' tall and 1' wide when I planted them 6 years ago and they are now about 10' tall and 6' - 8' wide. They are planted in raised beds and I only water them in extended dry times other than the feeding that I do with the Miracle Grow which I do about every two weeks during spring and summer. They get full sun for about 6 hours a day and partial sun the rest of the day however, the ones that I grow in containers would get full sun as the area that I would have them has few trees to shade them.


First of all, it sounds like you are doing a great job with your Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) plants.  We do have several suggestions, however.  

1.  Instead of starting your plants in a raised bed, we suggest that you start your seeds in pots.  The seedlings do not usually transplant very well from beds because of the long tap root that develops.

2.  We usually nick the seeds on a stone grinder (you can nick them with a sharp knife) before they are sown so that they germinate quickly and at a much higher rate.

3.  The potting soil we use is a locally produced container mix (basically a good compost with pecan hulls to give it texture and keep the soil from compacting).

4.  Compost contains a good organic fertilizer start (natural nitrogen) and incorporates fertilizers better since the soil is living. However, you will get better results if you use a natural organic plant food rather than an inorganic fertilizer.  Inorganic fertilizers can cause salt burn after prolonged use (salts build up in the soil).  The salt can kill  beneficial organisms in the soil as well as burn plants. Your fertilizing regime seems good, but you may be able to fertilize less if you use compost. You will surely get better results if you use a well draining compost either way. If you get a heavier compost, you can cut it with sand at about 25% sand to increase drainage.

For further information about growing mountain laurels we suggest you read about them in Jill Noke's How to Grow Native Plants of Texas and the Southwest—for sale at most book stores and probably available at your local library.  She recommends growing the seedlings in 30% shade for the first spring and summer.  She says that seedlings grown in full sun tend to expend most of their energy on root growth and form low compact shoot growth to protect themselves from burning.  In the wild seedlings are found growing underneath parent trees or in the shade of other trees. 

Best of luck with your project!

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora



More Seeds and Seeding Questions

Habiturf for Round Rock TX
March 17, 2013 - Topic Habiturf. We have just aerated our lawn. We were planning on throwing out bermudagrass seed. We already have bermudagrass as well as many weeds in the lawn especially the blue stem clump grass w...
view the full question and answer

Different colors of Argemone spp. from McAllen TX
March 16, 2014 - I took pictures of at least 5 colors of pricklepoppy today. Is this common to have so many colors in one area? How do I harvest the seedpods and when is the best time to do so?
view the full question and answer

Bluebonnet seeds north of Chicago
March 11, 2008 - Hi My husband is originally from Texas - we now live north of Chicago. Last year he bought a whole bunch of Blue bonnet seeds from a company that said they would grow in our area... I planted enough ...
view the full question and answer

Sprouts from Sabal palmetto in Charleston SC
July 23, 2010 - I live in SC and have several palm trees (our state tree and symbol). The trees are wonderful, but my situation concerns the many, many sprouts that appear in the flower beds around the trees? Is the...
view the full question and answer

Flowering plant for gravesite in Weatherford TX
June 23, 2013 - I want to plant flowering plant of some kind at parent's grave site in Weatherford, TX. The family cemetery is on a limestone hill with no irrigation or ability to water other than nature. Would on...
view the full question and answer

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