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

Wednesday - October 07, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Coralberry in Central Texas has lost leaves
Answered by: Jackie OKeefe

QUESTION:

I planted a coralberry this past spring. It seemed to be doing well, but then I noticed some of its leaves were missing. Gradually, all the leaves disappeared, from the top of the plant down. It is about a foot high, and it took a few days--a couple of weeks, I think--for all the leaves to be gone. Someone suggested that deer were eating them, but that's not it: mine is the only coralberry plant for miles around, and no deer is coming to my neighborhood just to munch on a tiny coralberry bush. When all the leaves were gone, I started to pull the plant up, but didn't. All summer, it was there but bare. Last week, when it got a little cooler and we had some rain, the leaves started growing again. I was hopeful that it would come back. Now the leaves seem to be disappearing again. What is it? Parasol ants? Leafcutters? What do you suggest? I live in 78744, the Dove Springs area. I put some bone meal in the hole and a little mulch around the plant when I planted it. What's up--any ideas? Ken S.

ANSWER:

If the Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry) lost only leaves (not stems) this summer and you haven't seen any evidence of ants, then deer and ants may not be the problem at all. This summer has been so severely hot and dry that vulnerable young plants have taken a beating. First, let's see if the plant is still alive. Carefully scrape a little bark off of the stem, down toward the base of the plant. Is there green under the surface? If so, your Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry) is still with us, and may recover over time. If not, chances are that it's a victim of the tough summer and the sudden change to extremely wet conditions.

If it's dead, try not to judge too hard from this experience. Once established, Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry) is plenty tough and readily spreads both underground and by means of the longs shoots that spring from the main stem. Over time, it can create a dense network of roots and stems, and the long-lasting berries make a nice display through the fall and winter.

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry) is a woodland understory plant, so if this plant comes back or you try a new one, make sure the planting site doesn't bake in summer sun. The layer of mulch is very much the right thing. Since local soils tend to be high in Calcium-rich clay, you may want to avoid putting bone meal in the soil for this particular plant, since it has a low CaCO3 tolerance, and the high Phosphorus levels in bone meal would increase the soil pH.

 


Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus
 

More Shrubs Questions

Texas native plants for cemetery site
February 09, 2005 - I am trying to landscape my mothers gravesite located in far East Texas (just outside of Nacogdoches) and I am looking for some evergreen bushes or any other decorative plants for that area. I am thi...
view the full question and answer

Planting time for non-natives in Irving TX
February 07, 2012 - Have dwarf nandinas and two lorapetalums that I want to transplant. Can I do it now February 6th 2012?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of shrub in Georgia
May 26, 2010 - I have a bush that has red berries. It is evergreen and the leaves are a soft green. The berries are white at first and turn red. The bush is like a cluster of twigs that are in one area kind of li...
view the full question and answer

Pruning smooth azalea in NJ
July 12, 2011 - I have a Smooth Azalea growing in my woods. It was verified by the Master Gardeners of Burlington County New Jersey. It's 12 feet tall and lanky. Can it be trimmed in hopes of thickening up? If s...
view the full question and answer

Shade Trees for Flagstaff AZ
June 14, 2015 - I live in Flagstaff, AZ and in need of good shade trees all around the house. We live in the Doney Park area (east of Flagstaff) and it is very windy in the spring time. We need the trees for priva...
view the full question and answer

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