Explore Plants

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
    
 

Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - April 16, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Transplants, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Damaged newly planted Gaura in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello yet again! This past Friday we attended the plant sale where we got lots of goodies to start a new bed. The plants were all planted on Sunday. All of them are doing fine, even beginning to produce new blooms in some cases, except for the Gaura Lindenheimeri. It was completely fine last night, then this morning (about 12 hours after I had last looked at it) I went out to find it darkened and shriveled and no longer upright. It was a gallon plant. I, of course, immediately triple checked the sun and soil needs and nothing seems amiss there. But, what on earth would cause it to have such a radical change in health so quickly?! I poked around for possible nearby snails or other critters, but did not find any. Do you know of any common, or even uncommon, causes of a sudden change in a newly planted plant?

ANSWER:

Well, everybody here is baffled, too. Our Nursery and Gardens staff and volunteers are very particular about the conditions of the plants that are put on sale in our semi-annual Plant Sale. Poison pellets are never inserted into the soil just to give customers a surprise. We have two theories. The first is that we know the Gaura does not like being transplanted. It has a long carrot-like taproot which permits the plant to survive drought. It's possible that root got broken in the process. Another possibility, although kind of remote, is that a too-generous dose of fertilizer into the hole when the plant was put in the ground might have shocked the roots a bit. Ordinarily, we recommend no fertilizer at all for native plants in their own territory, as they are already acclimated to the soils there. 

And speaking of remote possibilities, from the first we thought of animal damage; that is, a  dog or cat making a pit stop there.

From Conditions Comments in Native Plant Database:

"Open vase-shaped plant, branches arching in many directions. Leaf color is dark green in summer, and red, gold or purple in the fall. The flower, white fading pink, has only a few flowers open at a time with new ones opening as stalks grow throughout most. Flowers open in early morning. Tolerant of high heat. Flower fragrance has sometimes been compared to cat urine." 

We have absolutely no proof that is what happened, but it's a possibility that some other cat or dog came around to deposit their own scent, saying, in effect: "So, there!"

Having tap-danced all around your problem, we suggest you treat this as transplant shock. Trim off the  damaged upper area, as much as 1/4 to 1/3 of the upper parts of the plant. No more fertilizer and hopefully it will come back and do fine. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

 

 

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Care for some non-native salvias from Austin
November 12, 2012 - Mexican bush sage and Salvia "indigo spires" are both blooming in my Austin beds right now. Once they stop blooming and/or frost gets them, could you tell me by how much they should be cut back? R...
view the full question and answer

Plants that smell like chocolate from Coral Gables FL
July 12, 2012 - I am looking for plants that smell like chocolate. I live in south Florida. We are currently growing and testing Berlandiera lyrata. Do you know of other plants whose flowers smell like chocolate?
view the full question and answer

Native plants that are dog-proof in South Texas
July 13, 2008 - I live in Odem, Texas and would like to use only native plants in my front and backyard. I have two puppies who love to dig. What plants should I use that require minimal attention from me and will no...
view the full question and answer

Plantings for a slope from New Carrollton MD
June 27, 2012 - My house (Maryland, near DC) sits at the bottom of a south facing slope. The soil is very heavy clay. The grade is about 1:20 for about 100 feet (with a steeper part at the top). Part of the hill is i...
view the full question and answer

Defenses against imported red leaf beetles on lilies
August 06, 2007 - I've recently discovered small red beetles of some kind on my lilies, which they are happily devouring. I've been picking them off with my fingers and squashing them, but I'd like a better alterna...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.