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

Monday - August 24, 2009

From: Katy , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Declining wax myrtles in Katy, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My wax myrtle bushes were thick and green except for a few on the NE side 6 months ago when we bought the house. Now they are thin, leggy, and dropping leaves like crazy. They seem to be dying one branch at at time. No one could see into our yard. Now you can see everything! Please help.

ANSWER:

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) is native not only to Texas, but to the area around Katy. We have had other inquiries about their wax myrtles looking bad, and we are not sure why. We sound like a broken record, but there has been so much heat and so little rain (even in your part of the state) that everything is suffering. Strictly speaking, the wax myrtle is considered a plant for lowlands or marshy areas. and will tolerate poor drainage once it is established, but does not tolerate extreme drought.  No well-established native plant being treated the same way in the same location should decline like that without a change in the environment. Possibly the previous owners were watering the plant more. About all we can suggest at this point is to get some water down to the roots. The best way to do this, if a little low-tech, is to stick a hose down in the dirt and let the water dribble very slowly until water appears on the surface, then move on to the next bush. Do this about once a week, and see if they start to improve. Don't fertilize, never fertilize a plant under stress. If the cool weather and even rains finally come back, you might consider doing some pruning, taking off some of the top branches as well as pruning out the dead ones, to take some of the strain off the water-carrying mechanism of the plant.

We did some research to see if there were any diseases that could be infesting your plants, and the only indication we found was that sometimes canker diseases could kill the plant. We found this website from the Nevada Department of Agriculture, Canker disease on ornamental woody plants. There are a couple illustrations and it is noted that the canker is an opportunistic disease, and will attack plants stressed by drought. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery


Morella cerifera

Morella cerifera

Morella cerifera

Morella cerifera

 

 

More Diseases and Disorders Questions

Premature leaf drop on Red Maple in Kentucky
June 25, 2008 - I have a ten foot Red Maple tree that has been set out for 4 years. Its leaves have slowly turned colors until it currently looks like fall. The leaves are not falling off nor is there yet any s...
view the full question and answer

Catalpa and maple with dying branches in Wisconsin
July 07, 2008 - We have a northern catalpa in our front yard. It's been there for about three years now and is probably 25' high. This year it appeared to be doing great. It flowered and then all of sudden last ...
view the full question and answer

Corona de Cristo, guest or pest?
July 12, 2008 - We have had two recent speakers at the Austin Butterfly Forum with differing views as to whether Passiflora foetida is invasive in Texas. One believes that it's well-behaved and a a great butterfly ...
view the full question and answer

Mountain Laurel slowly dying in San Antonio, TX
December 26, 2012 - My Texas Mountain Laurel seems to be dying in a slow unusual manner. Over the past two weeks the leaves have been turning yellow and falling off starting with the south facing side of my multi-tru...
view the full question and answer

Possible Herbicide Contamination of Soil
July 07, 2016 - My mother will be 80 this year and lives in Houston, Texas. She has a raised bed garden near her neighbors fence. It has been there for many years. She feels that he uses Roundup for his weeds near a...
view the full question and answer

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