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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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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!

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Friday - March 13, 2009

From: houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: At what age should a Mountain Laurel bloom?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

At what age should a Texas Mountain Laurel bloom? I saw your response about feeding and about how high nitrogen fertilizers can diminish blooms but is there anything that will help, eg. "super bloom" products with a high middle number?

ANSWER:

 Texas Mountain Laurel Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) is a hardy Texas native, and one of the reasons for growing it is to see and smell those gorgeous flowers. Flowering of course is part of the reproductive process and plants tend to do this on their own schedule providing other things are going well in their life. I haven't found anything about a specific age for flowering for the Mountain Laurel, but three years is the earliest age that was mentioned.

On the NPIN page for Mountain Laurel (see link above), you can find the growing conditions that are favorable for growth. Lets look at three that are often problematic

Light requirement: sun, Partial Shade, however the plant blooms more profusely in full sun.

Soil moisture: Moist, dry. Over watering can "drown" the plant at worst, and can inhibit blooming.

Soil description: Dry, rocky, well drained soils. Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, and Clay Loam. This is tied in with soil moisture.

As to fertilization, the ratio of Nitrogen:Phosphorous that the plant receives can influence the flowerng process. Higher nitrogen can inhibit flowering. It is almost an article of faith at the Wildflower Center that you don't fertilize native plants. In the case of Mountain Laurel, it is a legume and is fixing its own nitrogen. If it is also getting high nitrogen from the lawn fertilizer, the balance is shifted toward non-blooming.(See previous answer)

Your Agri-Life Extension Service in Harris County can provide soil testing that will determine if any fertilization is needed.

This link provides good information about growing and caring for Mountain Laurel.

 

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