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
1 rating

Sunday - August 16, 2009

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Wilting stems on beautyberry in Georgetown, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Last summer I discovered that a 4-year old beautyberry had one (of many) stems that died. Leaves on this single stem wilted and dried up. This year the same happened to two or three stems. The rest of the plant is fine, as are two other plants of the same age. Now a new (planted last November) beautyberry has two wilted stems (out of three total). Any idea what's going on? Plants are in mostly shade, light sun and get supplemental water. No evidence of insect infestation. Just sudden stem wilt!

ANSWER:

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) - a deciduous shrub, blooms white, pink May to July, berries in winter are important to birds, has low water use and requires part shade. It is native to Texas, but not to Williamson County, rather preferring moist woods, coastal plains and bottomlands.

According to this information in our Native Plant Database:

"The shrub may temporarily defoliate and lose developing fruit during periods of prolonged summer drought."

And what have we had, last year and this year but prolonged summer drought? There is also the possibility of some root damage, perhaps when the plant was placed in the ground. Or, it might have been rootbound when it was purchased, and no root trimming was done to permit the roots to get out of their round-and-round conformation caused by the pot restricting their growth.  At this point, there is not a whole lot that can be done about either cause. For damage control, we would recommend deep watering by forcing a hose into the soil around the base of the shrub and allowing it to dribble very slowly for an hour or so, once a week. If water pools on the surface when you do this, that probably indicates clay in the soil, which makes it difficult for a plant's little rootlets to access nutrients in the soil. You can begin to amend the soil by working some compost into the ground around the shrubs, and mulching with a shredded bark mulch. The mulch will protect the roots from heat, hold in moisture and, as it decomposes, add more organic material to the soil, assisting with drainage. 

Beyond that, trim out the dead or dying stalks, so the roots won't still be trying to get moisture to a lost cause. Don't fertilizer, no plant under stress should be fertilized. And hope for rain. 

Pictures from our Native Plant Image Gallery


Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana

Callicarpa americana

 

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Will Habiturf thrive in Houston?
July 31, 2012 - Will Habiturf grow in partial sun? My lawn is surrounded by trees so that there is only about an hour each day with direct overhead sun. The rest of the day there is a light shade.
view the full question and answer

Help with composting in Katy TX
March 19, 2010 - I've gone on line and tried to figure out what I'm doing wrong with my compost pile. What exactly is the proper ratio, and the types of plant matter and layers to achieve the optimum decomposition i...
view the full question and answer

Wildflower seeds affected by mulch in Austin
October 24, 2010 - I have a small wildflower garden in my central Austin yard. In early summer, I had some extra mulch and put it in this garden. Now I'm thinking that was a mistake. The bed has re-seeded itself for se...
view the full question and answer

Non-blooming climbing rose in Conroe, TX
October 09, 2009 - I have a climbing rose and it has never bloomed and has no thorns, it was a cutting from another rose bush. I have given it water and fertilize and have mulch around it also.
view the full question and answer

Perennial blooming plants for Ashland MO
April 02, 2010 - I am beginning to create a flower bed in front of my house, I do not have a green thumb so I want to know what plants would come back yearly and I can plant now in Mid Missouri?
view the full question and answer

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