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?

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 - June 27, 2009

From: Lexington, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Dying non-native red tip photinias in Lexington NC
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Large Red Tip bushes, what can I do to keep them alive? I have a few and they are dying. What can I do to save them?

ANSWER:

Due to the large volume of questions, we ask that you please limit your questions to topics related to North American native plants.

For openers, the red-tip photinia is non-native to North America, originating in the Far East. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are committed to the planting, protection and propagation of plants native to North America. Native plants are recommended because they are adapted to an area's soil, rainfall, heat (or cold), and so require less water, less fertilizer, less maintenance. We're not saying that your plants are suffering because they're non-native, necessarily, but that choosing the right plant, in advance, can save you a lot of grief and probably money because of lost plants. Unfortunately, the red tip photinia has been widely overused because it is cheap, fast-growing and the red leaves in the Spring are quite attractive.

In this Mississippi State University Extension Service Red-tip Photinia Almost Eliminated, you will likely find out why your plants are not prospering. Here is a quote from this article:

"Red-tip is highly susceptible to the fungal pathogen known as Entomosporium that causes leaf spots and ultimately defoliation. The disease has all but eliminated Red-tip from the list of recommended shrubs for Southern landscapes. In fact, the disease is so widespread that one plant pathologist jokingly explained that there are two types of Red-tip, those that have the disease and those that are going to get it! So, even though newly planted Red-tip bushes may stay disease free for many years, ultimately they will succumb to the inevitable."

Cotton Root Rot is also responsible for the loss of many ornamental plants in clay soil, and photinias are especially vulnerable. An article by Lynn Rawe from the Texas A&M Home Horticulture site describes the symptoms. There is no cure.

We're sorry that we can't give you the name of a spray or fungicide that would cure these plants, but we're afraid there is no such panacea. If the seemingly inevitable happens, try replacing the plants with plants native to North Carolina. If and when the photinias die, remove them and dispose of them in such a way that whatever disease has killed them will not be readily able to spread to other plants. Then incorporate compost or other humus into the soil, digging and mixing it deeply, and raising the bed, again to improve drainage. Don't try to plant new shrubs until late Fall, so they won't suffer from heat shock. Mulch them with shredded hardwood mulch, which will help keep the roots cool (or warm) and, as it decomposes, add still more organic matter to the soil, and keep this mulching up.

 

 

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Native plants of Rome
February 22, 2009 - I am researching the native plants of Rome but I can't get anything get anything else besides olives. Can you help me to find some more?
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of Lantanas
August 06, 2008 - Here at work we have 4 beautiful yellow Santanas(should I say had), the leaves have started to turn brown and no longer blooming. Appears to have a fungus or disease. Please help!
view the full question and answer

Will Mountain Laurels be harmed by juglones from my pecan tree?
May 06, 2009 - Hi. I just bought a house. It has a big pecan tree at the edge of the front lawn next to the street. I guess it's about 25 feet from the front of the house. I was thinking of planting mountain la...
view the full question and answer

Care for a non-native Syringa vulgaris (lilac)
February 19, 2008 - I inherited a lilac bush when I bought my house. It grows in a bed right in front of the house but grows away from the house, not in a straight up and down manner. This winter we had a 12" snow fall ...
view the full question and answer

Does NPIN include non-native plant species?
September 03, 2009 - I'm writing a book on the plants eaten by 12th century Indians of Florida. I'd like to use your site for some of my research. You say all of your plants are native, but then under some listings (wil...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center