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

Tuesday - June 09, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Soils, Watering, Shrubs
Title: How will my Texas Mountain Laurel survive clay soil?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Pants: I live in a new neighborhood (brownfield site) in Central Austin where the developers have put fill in the yards. After not much more than 2 inches of topsoil you encounter fairly plastic clay ..much like you see along the 35 corridor near Waco. They've planted a several gallon size mountain laurel. Is the clay soil is going to be a problem? If so, is there something I can to to augment the soil? The leaves are light green, not the dark glossy green I see on more established laurels. Thanks much.

ANSWER:

Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel)  is a hardy shrub/tree whose habitat includes brushy slopes and open plains, and is common in limestone soils in the western and southern parts of the Edwards Plateau. It prefers well drained sand, loam, clay, caliche, limestone. The key here is well drained.

The problem with the clay soil could be the drainage. The clay around your Texas Mountain Laurel is also acting as a "clay pot " which will restrict the root growth and cause the plant to become root bound after a while.

There are two courses of action to follow, and you can do one , or both. The second best action is to expand the size of the hole the tree is planted in and substantially increase the volume of well-drained soil around the tree. The best thing to do is to replant the Sophora, but plant it on mounded soil 4-6" above the grade of the garden, again using well-drained soil. I'd do both.  Also I would wait until late fall to do the transplanting. In the mean time, water carefully so you won't drown your plant.

 

 

 

More Soils Questions

Blackfoot daisy turning brown in Round Rock, TX
September 30, 2009 - A few days ago, our blackfoot daisy was doing wonderfully. Then we got heavy rains and suddenly the plant is sere and brown. Did the too wet weather do this, and will it come back next year?
view the full question and answer

Problem garden strip in Austin
May 22, 2014 - Currently I live in the west half of a duplex. There is a small strip of dirt about two feet wide between the wall and the sidewalk in the backyard. It faces west, meaning it only gets sunlight duri...
view the full question and answer

Malpighia glabra for Austin
October 14, 2010 - Dear Mr. Smarty Pants, I am planting native Malpighia in a raised bed that was specially prepared for growing roses (soil and amendments). This bed has been left fallow for several years. Do I need t...
view the full question and answer

Converting a Texas backyard to grow Xerophytic native plants
January 09, 2015 - I am planning the conversion of our backyard, about 4000 sq ft of largely St Augustine, into a grassless landscape of hardscaping and native plants. Iíve been an avid gardener of rock garden plants i...
view the full question and answer

Growing Evergreen sumac in clay soil of Texas
August 19, 2011 - I'm in need of a fast growing evergreen screening shrub/small tree. I'm considering the Evergreen Sumac but before I go further I need to know if this plant will thrive and remain evergreen in the D...
view the full question and answer

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