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
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

Possumhaw losing leaves in Liberty Hill, TX.
July 11, 2011 - I have two female possumhaw trees and one of them is losing its leaves. I planted both of them in February and they were doing very well, getting green and full. What's happening?
view the full question and answer

Chile pequin from Spring Plant Sale in Austin
June 08, 2011 - Re: chile pequin purchased at your Spring 2011 sale: it grows, seems to thrive, but sets no flowers and so bears no fruit. It's in terracotta in Ladybug potting soil, on a shady apartment patio. How ...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting mature guavaberry in St. Croix
January 22, 2010 - I live on the island of St. Croix in the United States Virgin Islands and I have a Guavaberry tree that is about 25 to 30 years old, between 15 to 20 feet tall and about 6 feet wide that I would like ...
view the full question and answer

My newly planted Redbuds are not doing well.
June 24, 2009 - I ordered and received 2 Red Bud trees from one of the popular ordering houses. They explained that they were dormant and not dead, and gave us instructions on how to plant them, which we followed. Th...
view the full question and answer

BEST SPACING AND EXPECTED HEIGHT FOR ACEROLA (BARBADOS CHERRY) IN COLLEGE STATION, TX
October 09, 2010 - What is the best spacing for Malpighia glabra plants and how tall will they grow in College Station, TX?
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