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

Wednesday - February 25, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pests, Planting, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Bare spot in Prairie Phlox in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have Prairie Phlox in my garden that I have had for about 4 to 6 years. I got the original plant from the NPSOT at their booth one year at the Wildflower center. It is really lovely in the spring when it is in bloom,and it has spread nicely, but in the last couple of years the center has died out. I read that that happens. I tried transplanting some of the healthier plants but between the ants and the drought I didn't have any luck. So what can I do with that bare spot. The ants seem to have moved on, but the bare spot is unattractive.

ANSWER:

When we searched our Native Plant Database on the common name "Prairie Phlox," we got three results, but one of them was not native to Texas. So, your phlox is probably either Phlox pilosa (downy phlox) or Phlox pilosa ssp. pilosa (downy phlox). Ordinarily, we would recommend digging all your plants for dividing, and doing a little work on the soil in the area. Adding some compost, maybe a little fertilizer and generally fluffing up the dirt could really reinvigorate your plants. You could then break them up into clumps (they have rhizome-like roots), and replant them in the fresh new bed, and water gently but thoroughly until they start to perk up. Especially in a clumping plant like phlox, division and replanting all the plants will add to the volume of your phlox and increase its vigor. 

When we say "ordinarily" it's because we're worried about your statement that the ants "seem to have moved on."  Lots of times ants will become semi-dormant in the winter, feasting on the seeds they have been harvesting and stowing away. Also, we have had so little rain, and you didn't say if you irrigated, which could have caused them to come to the surface. And you didn't say what kinds of ants they are, maybe you haven't identified them, but we're betting no ant is going to take a shovel blade breaking through his roof without causing some trouble. We're not entomologists and we couldn't find any information on how to identify whether ants are still in residence without disturbing them. And a disturbed ant is not a happy ant. We hesitate to give you advice about something we know so little about, but would suggest you contact the Texas AgriLIFE Extension Service of Texas A&M, Travis County. Hopefully, someone there could tell you how to establish whether an ant bed is still active and how to get it to go away. 

Pictures of Phlox pilosa ssp. pilosa (downy phlox)


Phlox pilosa

Phlox pilosa

 

 

More Planting Questions

Stopping erosion on bank of a Florida retention pond
July 21, 2015 - I live on a retention pond, which has had all vegetation killed by the lake doctor. As a result the bank has eroded so there is a drop off directly to the water rather than a sloping bank. What plan...
view the full question and answer

Rock under space for Bigtooth Maple in San Antonio
May 20, 2013 - I just got a 10 gallon Bigtooth Maple in Medina TX for my home outside loop 1604 in San Antonio. I hit rock about 7 inches in when trying to plant it..I am entertaining the idea for a raised bed to le...
view the full question and answer

Restoring the woods in Central Austin.
May 08, 2012 - I live in Austin, south central between Red Bud trail close to the low water bridge and Bee Caves road. My question: I want to make the wooded sections of my yard attractive. They have filtered sun...
view the full question and answer

O.K. to grow grass under a live oak?
November 26, 2014 - Is it a bad idea to plant grass around a mature live oak? We have erosion issues and trying to keep mulch in the beds around the tree groves is a challenge, even with edging. Much of the native dirt...
view the full question and answer

Planting dogwood in Baytown TX
April 23, 2010 - I live in Baytown Texas and was wondering if this would be a good area to plant a dogwood tree?
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