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

Friday - March 13, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils, Transplants, Watering, Trees
Title: My newly planted Mountain Laurel isn\'t doing well.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


My mountain laurel was planted from a container in Dec. It is in part sun, clay soil, and its leaves are turning yellow. should I move it or will that kill it?


 Mountain Laurel Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) is a hardy, slow growing evergreen with showy purple flowers. It prefers rocky, well drained soils with sand, loam, clay, caliche, limestone. It can live in full sun or partial shade, but blooms more abundantly in full sun. It is not very tolerant of being transplanted, so please don't move it.

You didn't mention the size/age of the plant, but it could be suffering from transplant shock. You say it is in clay soil which isn't the preferred type, and there is a tendency  for people to over water newly planted plants; so the combination of poorly drained soil with too much watering could be causing the problem.

I would suggest that you, without disturbing the roots any more than you have to, try to incorporate some organic material like compost or leaf mold into the soil to improve the drainage. Water deeply but infrequently. Trim up to 1/3 of the upper structure the foliage including the dying leaves. Leave enough leaves to nourish the plant, but not so many as to put undue stress on the developing root system.

This Plant Answers link has a lot of good information about caring for your Mountain Laurel.




More Compost and Mulch Questions

Evergreen pet-safe shrubs for house and screening in McKinney TX
April 15, 2010 - Looking for shrub, preferably evergreen, to plant near the house that can handle wet ground and is pet (dog, cat, horse) safe. The area became boggy after we had an underground water leak that is now ...
view the full question and answer

Browning leaves on non-native Burford holly
August 22, 2008 - I have several dwarf Burford hollies whose leaves are browning. The individual leaves have colors of green, dark brown to light brown extending from the stem. Any ideas?
view the full question and answer

Caring for Texas Buckeye in Buda TX
February 07, 2011 - I have a Texas Buckeye that is planted in a moderate amount of shade. It is growing very slowly, and only holds on to it's leaves from late March to August. It has been in the ground for about 4-5 ye...
view the full question and answer

Privacy plantings in Texas
August 16, 2008 - Our home currently has a 4' chain fence. We are a family of 7 with younger aged children and are looking for more privacy. In lieu of a replacement fence, what would you recommend planting to provi...
view the full question and answer

Combining native shrubs for hedge in Austin
April 15, 2009 - Smarty, Please tell me what the definitions are for all the various water, soil moisture, drainage and light requirements mean. Are the definitions global? I live in Central East Austin and inten...
view the full question and answer

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