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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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Saturday - June 20, 2009

From: Phoenix, AZ
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Care of non-native potato tree (Solanum macranthum or Lycianthes rantonnetii)
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I live in Phoenix. I bought what was called a potato tree. Purple flowers with blooms quite often. It seemed a little puny and twiggy so I fed it Miracle Grow. It is now gorgeous with lovely leaves and very full--but it seems it will not blossom. Do you know why? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Mr. Smarty Plants assumes you mean Solanum macranthum (giant potato tree), a native of Brazil, or Lycianthes rantonnetii [syn. Solanum rantonnetii] (blue potato bush), native to Argentina and Paraguay.  Whichever tree it is, it isn't native to North America.  Our focus and expertise here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is with plants native to North America so we don't really have experience with or information about plants of South America.  I suggest you contact one of the UBC Botanical Garden Forums or the GardenWeb Forums with your question.  Since it is a popular ornamental plant there are doubtless many people using the forums who have experience with the potato tree.  However, I can tell you that plants that receive fertilizers that are high in nitrogen tend to put all their efforts into leaves rather than flowers.  Miracle Gro All Purpose Plant Food is listed as 24-8-16—that's 24 parts nitrogen, 8 parts phosporus and 16 parts potassium and would be considered a high nitrogen fertilizer, so I suspect your plant has gotten an over-abundance of nitrogen.

 

 

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