En Español

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

Tuesday - November 17, 2009

From: Bertram, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Shrubs
Title: Leaf loss on Cenizo in Bertram TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I need help with a purple sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) problem. Most of one of my plants started having paler, more greyish leaves, then the leaves began to fall off. It seemed to still look healthy at the tips and it still blooms, but now has very few leaves on most of that plant. Now my healthiest sage is starting the same thing. We have great drainage, do not overwater, and I see no clear evidence of insects or scale. I have photos I could send if needed. Thanks

ANSWER:

We really can't diagnose difficulties with a plant that we can't see; sometimes we can't do it with plants we CAN see. So, we want to offer some ideas on what might be going on with your bush, and you might be able to figure it out or stop worrying about it.

First, the Cenizo will tolerate part shade, but really prefers full sun for at least 4 to 6 hours a day. This is a very tough desert plant, and you need to avoid coddling it. It doesn't like compost, fertilizer or overwatering. It does like alkaline soil, and can grow in pretty difficult circumstances. If you are being too good to your Cenizo, cut it out. Another thing is that it is referred to as "semi-evergreen" in some research sources. You know how live oak trees are considered evergreen and suddenly, about March, they dump most of their leaves and then grow back some fresh ones? That might be what your plant is doing, as well. Finally, our favorite reason to give when something is different about a plant in Central Texas is that we have had really weird (even for Texas) weather for the last two or three years. The species has seen all this before, and has its own defense mechanisms built in. You might try a little tip pruning to encourage the shrub to thicken up, as it can become loose and leggy otherwise. 

In summary, we don't know what's wrong with your plants; on the other hand, we're not sure there is anything wrong with them. Give them some time, but don't give them anything else, like fertilizer or too much water. Every plant needs some down time, a little dormancy, and that could be what you're seeing. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Leucophyllum frutescens

Leucophyllum frutescens

Leucophyllum frutescens

Leucophyllum frutescens

 

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Evergreen shrubs for blocking car noise in Austin
January 18, 2009 - I live on Bee Caves road and was wondering what is the best tree/shrub I could use to block noise from cars? I've seen evergreen mentioned, is this the right one to plant? Also, if there are existing...
view the full question and answer

Reducing Allergens in Yards and Gardens
January 31, 2012 - What are some allergen-free native plants to Central Texas that thrive in the soil and can survive in the weather?
view the full question and answer

Acidity of soil for blueberry plants
May 11, 2007 - We have 8 blueberry plants and we have just taken out several Juniper shrubs. How will this effect the acidity of the soil for the blueberries? Do we need to add more acidity? We heard that the junipe...
view the full question and answer

Screening Suggestions in Brooklyn, NY
March 08, 2013 - My neighbor directly in back of me has shrubs that are growing all over my fence. Also his 9-foot-tall shed facing me is rusted. What can I do to improve my view so that I can enjoy my backyard more?
view the full question and answer

Native shrub to replace non-native azaleas.
February 10, 2009 - I want to replace my two dozen azaleas this spring (I think they're unattractive once the flowers fall off). I like the multiseason characteristics of weigela (midnight wine, W&R), but want to go na...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center