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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - March 15, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Non-native bulbine damaged by freeze
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Our Texas bulbine were hit hard this year. The tops are dead, not sure if any roots are still alive. Should we trim them back to the dirt; if roots are still alive, will they emerge again via root system?

ANSWER:

You have been led along by a nursery trade name for a plant that infers a plant is native to Texas when, in fact, it is not. "Texas bulbine" is actually Bulbine frutescens, Orange African Bulbine, native to (where else?) South Africa. Since at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we are only conversant in plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown, this plant is out of our expertise. We can tell you that it is hardy from USDA Zones 9 to 11, while Austin in is Zone 8a. This is probably not enough of a spread to make that much difference in survival chances,  but we had such sudden, hard freezes that marginal plants were hurt. We would suggest trimming them back to about 6 inches, water but don't fertilize, and wait. If they are well-established, they could come back up from their roots. See this article from the Pima County (AZ) Cooperative Extension Master Gardeners on Bulbine frutescens for more information.
 

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