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

Thursday - July 02, 2009

From: Grandview, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Pruning, Transplants, Shrubs
Title: Brown leaves on possumhaw holly in Grandview TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What would be likely causes for brown leaves on possumhaw holly? We have 2, one was planted in spring 2008, and a slightly larger one planted late winter/early spring this year. Most of the leaves are green, but both have a pretty good amount of brown leaves also, and have lost some brown ones.

ANSWER:

Our research indicates Ilex decidua (possumhaw) does not have any significant pests or diseases. It is native to Texas, and likes our alkaline soils. According to the USDA Plant Profile on the plant, it is growing wild in Johnson County, so it is not trying to survive out of its territory. And if no one has been spraying broad-leaf weedkillers close to it, that lets that out. We suspect that since both plants are showing some browning, it is an expression of their displeasure at being transplanted in a really hot, dry year. 

We are going to suggest our prescription for transplant shock. First, determine if the shrubs are getting good drainage. If you have clay soil, you need to work some humus, like compost, into the soil around the roots, without disturbing the roots any more than is necessary. Then, to protect the roots from the heat and hold moisture in the soil, mulch with a good quality shredded hardwood mulch. Now, trim off 1/4 to 1/3 of the top of the plant, to reduce the leaves and branches the stressed roots need to be getting water to. Finally, 2 or 3 times a week, stick a hose down in the soil, and let it dribble very slowly for a while, to be sure the roots are getting the moisture they need. Individual brown leaves are not too worrisome, but if whole branches start to brown and die, there could have been some damage done to the roots in transplanting. Only time will tell if your tender loving care has rescued this excellent Fall color plant.


Ilex decidua

Ilex decidua

Ilex decidua

Ilex decidua

 

 

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Source for pecan mulch used at Wildflower Center from Austin
November 11, 2011 - Hello Mr. Smarty Pants I was recently at the Wildflower Center. I saw all the pecan shell mulch and was wondering where you get it from. I noticed awhile back that it is one of the recommended mu...
view the full question and answer

Will recycled tire mulch harm butterfly larvae?
December 05, 2012 - I discovered orange butterfly larva in the hardwood mulch under my Turk's Cap. Will it harm the larva if I switch over to recycled tire mulch?
view the full question and answer

Ants in the compost pile from Georgetown TX
March 09, 2012 - Can you give me any suggestions for ridding my compost pile of ants?
view the full question and answer

Erosion control on partially shaded slope
November 27, 2010 - Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in Atlanta, GA. My house is on a hill, and I am beginning to have erosion at my backyard porch (concrete slab, on the corners especially). The soil is mainly red clay, a...
view the full question and answer

Overwatering Texas Mountain Laurel from Rosanky TX
June 06, 2012 - I just read your article in the Statesman about over watering Mt.Laurel. Now I know why my lovely 15 year old tree is dying. We put in new grass this winter and I watered too much. Is there any hop...
view the full question and answer

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