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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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Thursday - July 16, 2009

From: Lufkin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders
Title: Yaupon in bonsai failing to thrive in Lufkin TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi,I have a yaupon that I've turned into a bonsai. It's been producing new vegetation until about a month ago. Then all of a sudden the branches started drooping and the leaf tips started turning black.

ANSWER:

Much as we hate to admit it, bonsai is something this particular member of the Mr. Smarty Plants team knows very little about. We did have some lovely bonsais, all out of native plants, on display at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center a few months ago. However, they were brought in and loaned to the Center by someone who was an expert in the art. We found a website from the American Bonsai Society where you might get some better help than we can give you.

We do know about Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) but without  knowing if you are growing the plant inside or outside, or how much you have pruned the roots, etc. we're still in the dark. From our webpage on the yaupon, we have these Condition Comments:

"Soil Description: Sandy to gravelly soils; tolerates poorly drained soil. Sandy Sandy Loam Medium Loam Clay Loam Clay Limestone-based
Conditions Comments: Yaupon is a versatile plant that tolerates drought and poor drainage, with best production of red fruit when shrub gets half a day of sun or more.  It is slow-growing and tends to get thick and twiggy on the inside. Careful pruning creates an elegantly-shaped plant."

The texture of the yaupon is fairly fine, so it would seem to be a good candidate for bonsai. We found a website Bonsai Talk which specifically addresses the use of a dwarf cultivar of the yaupon, and how to care for it. To us, even though the sources we consulted all said the yaupon was tolerant of poor drainage, this sounds like a drainage problem. Maybe if you could let the soil in the container get a little more dry, it might help. It would seem to us that a plant in such an artificial condition would be very susceptible to fungus, which the drooping branches and darkening leaf tips could indicate. Yaupon needs at least some sun, and possibly changing its exposure slightly would help. 

 

 

 

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