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

Leaf browning on blackfoot daisy in Arizona
August 26, 2008 - Blackfoot daisy plant was doing great; then, in one day, it turned brown like it had no water. Have a watering system in place which waters once a day for one hour 1/2 gallon a hour.
view the full question and answer

Yellowing leaves on yaupon in Ft. Worth
April 23, 2009 - I planted a Pride of Houston Yaupon Holly in January in full sun. It is blooming little white flowers right now for spring, but a lot of leaves are turning yellow. Do you know what is causing this? ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for floodplain in Fairfield, New Jersey
March 21, 2010 - I have an easy question for you... I hope... We just moved into the floodplains of NJ in Fairfield and are interested in some plants. We would like to know what plants are best suited to grow in flood...
view the full question and answer

Pecan tree transplant in Elgin, TX
August 26, 2008 - Hello, Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a question about how to encourage a very young pecan sapling to grow, and whether I should use mulch to do so. I live in Elgin (Bastrop County) and the soil is extr...
view the full question and answer

My newly planted Mountain Laurel isn\'t doing well.
March 13, 2009 - My mountain laurel was planted from a container in Dec. It is in part sun, clay soil, and its leaves are turning yellow. should I move it or will that kill it?
view the full question and answer

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