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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - November 24, 2008

From: Dallas, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents, Shrubs
Title: Is a Texas Mountain Laurel too messy for swimming pool area?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our landscaper has recommended a Texas Mountain Laurel to plant beside our swimming pool. We recently removed Cherry Laurels from the same location because of the mess they made in the pool (especially the filter) while blooming. I would love to have a Mountain Laurel, but it is going to cause the same types of problems?

ANSWER:

We can understand how you might think you would have similar problems, because each plant has the word "laurel" in its common name. However, they are not even closely related. Prunus caroliniana (Carolina laurelcherry) is a member of the Rosaceae family, and therefore more closely related to your garden roses. Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) is a member of the Fabaceae family, or pea family. 

So, since you've obviously already eliminated the cherry laurel from consideration, as in dug it up, let's talk about the Texas Mountain Laurel. This is pretty much a southwest Texas plant, so we went to the USDA Plant Profile that shows the county distribution of Sophora secundiflora.  It does not appear that it grows naturally anywhere in the Dallas area. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we always recommend that plants in landscapes be not only natives of North America, but of the area in which they are being grown. The reasons for that include moisture needed, soil tolerances, hardiness zone, etc. One source said that it was doubtful that it would be cold hardy north of IH-20.

In our research, we never found anyone who said "this is one messy plant!", but we're not sure just how messy it would be in relation to your swimming pool filter. Although evergreen, it is going to shed some leaves year-round to be replaced by new ones. It has huge clusters of blooms, and when they dry and fall off, they have to go somewhere. Their seed pods are big, with lots of poisonous seeds in them, which also are going to fall. It grows very slowly, and when purchased from a nursery, needs to be small because of the very long taproot this plant develops. Damage to that taproot in transplanting can cause transplant shock and the plant will die. It can be grown from seeds, in place, but they are difficult to germinate, and sometimes take years to do so. They don't compete well with other nearby plants for space, nutrients or water, and are not very disease resistant. And they have a mind of their own about when they want to begin blooming; that, too, can take years of maturity.

Don't get us wrong. We love the Texas Mountain Laurel. In its native habitat, it is stunning. In the right spot, in town, it's a focal point. But it terms of whether it's worth the trouble and time necessary to grow it versus how much mess it's going to make in your pool, we have no way of deciding. It's possible that no shrub or tree is going to be compatible with the sanitary needs of your pool filter. You might consider some smaller, lower plants like Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista) (a grass-like plant), Hesperaloe parviflora (redflower false yucca), or an evergreen shrub like Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) as alternative plant accents in your pool area. 


Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Sophora secundiflora

Hesperaloe parviflora

Nolina texana

Morella cerifera

 

 

 

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

What to do about cold damage to spineless prickly pear?
March 05, 2010 - In Austin, Texas our 'spineless' prickly pear cactus is about 6' wide by 4' tall. In the last severe freeze, the top half flattened out and has remained that way. Should I cut the flattened pads o...
view the full question and answer

Container plants for Arlington TX
February 10, 2012 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I just moved to Arlington, TX. I am trying to create a container garden on my apartment balcony. What flowers, herbs, vegetables, and fruit combinations can I put together that wil...
view the full question and answer

Century plants spread through offshots from Rye TX
September 20, 2010 - How do century plants spread? Are the little ones the babies?
view the full question and answer

Succulents, wildflowers and grasses for Austin
June 09, 2010 - I live on a bluff over Lake Travis and am replanting two beds in front of my driveway with Mexican Feathergrass and Agave. What other grasses or wildflowers could I mix in with the Mexican Feathergra...
view the full question and answer

Need help with yucca palm in New York City, NY.
November 10, 2011 - I have had my yucca palm plant for almost 10 years. The bark has started to peel off although leaves seem fine. The second smaller separate yucca plant has half its bark and trunk gone. I can't see a...
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