Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Saturday - May 16, 2009

From: Kerens, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Transplants, Watering, Trees
Title: Desert willows not doing well in Navarro County, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Planted 3 new desert willows , 3-4 ft.in February. Live in East Navarro County and soil is clay with slight slope to Richland Chambers lake area. Had a wet spring. These plantings appear not doing well, with limited green appearing and half of sprouts have turned brown and died. How do we determine if there is adequate drainage? Two year old planting 30 feet away is doing great.

ANSWER:

Someone once asked us if you could grow a desert willow in East Texas. We said we didn't think you should try anything with "desert" in its name in East Texas. However, you say you have one that has been in the ground 2 years that is doing well. So, there must be some other reason for the problem.

First of all, you just planted these trees in February. They could be suffering from transplant shock. If you transplanted them directly from another location there might have been some root damage involved. If they were purchased in a pot and planted, the plant may have been rootbound, with the roots going round and round and not able to get out into the new soil for nutrition. In that case, we would ordinarily recommend that you clip some of those circling roots to force the roots to grow some new hair-like rootlets that actually serve to absorb water and nutrients from the soil, but that needs to be done before the tree is planted.

However, we feel you are probably correct in that you had an unusually wet spring, you have clay soil, and this is likely affecting drainage. The Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) will grow in clay or sandy soil; its native habitat is ditches, ravines, stream and river banks, where it is important in erosion control. To check the drainage in the immediate area, dig a hole a few inches deep and fill it with water. If the water is still standing 30 minutes later, your drainage is not good. Try to get as much organic material as you can in and around the roots of the desert willows, without disturbing the roots themselves any more than necessary. This plant is more comfortable in the alkaline soils of West Texas than the acid soils of East Texas. Use a shredded hardwood bark for the compost and for mulch on top of the soil. As these decompose, they will improve the drainage and make the nutrients in the soil more accessible to the roots. As for the transplant shock, trim off 1/4 to 1/3 of the upper growth, as well as the dead material, and keep the tree well watered, but without allowing water to stand on the roots. If it is raining, don't water. And don't fertilize at this point; a tree in transplant shock is a tree in stress, and you never want to fertilize a stressed plant. 


Chilopsis linearis

Chilopsis linearis

Chilopsis linearis

Chilopsis linearis

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Survivors of a Cedar Elm thicket thinning.
April 12, 2013 - I thinned a thicket of cedar elm saplings, but a few are now leaning excessively. Will they straighten up over time or should I go ahead and cut them too? Thanks!!
view the full question and answer

A Tree for Infant Daughter in Katy, TX
December 04, 2010 - Mr. Smarty Plants, We would like to plant a tree to "grow with" our infant daughter. We think she will enjoy measuring herself against it year after year, and will feel a sense of pride as we care...
view the full question and answer

Need trees & shrubs for a 2.5x45 ft. planter box in Chatsworth. CA.
August 07, 2012 - We recently built a pool in our backyard and need to redo all the landscaping. We have a planter that is 45 feet long and about 2.5 feet wide. We'd like to put some trees in this planter that are n...
view the full question and answer

Corkscrew willow damage to roof in Detroit, MI.
August 13, 2009 - I have a corkscrew willow (Detroit, MI) that is huge and whose branches hang on top of the asphalt shingles of my mobile home. It has now been discovered that these shingles, under the branches, are ...
view the full question and answer

Larvae infesting Mexican white oak
December 16, 2010 - What larvae/worm would dwell and eat the inside of a Mexican White Oak? I planted one last November and it was doing great. The bark started cracking towards the bottom but the top was very full & gre...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.