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?


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

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


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?


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:

Gaura lindheimeri

Gaura lindheimeri

Gaura lindheimeri

Gaura lindheimeri




More Planting Questions

Ensuring survival of wax myrtle in Wilmington, NC
July 29, 2009 - I just transplanted some wax myrtle bushes. What do I need to do to insure they live?
view the full question and answer

killing grass on 1 acre before planting Habiturf
March 04, 2012 - I have an acre of full sun lawn on a slight slope in Dallas - would the habiturf be appropriate & if so, how do I go about killing off the existing weeds/crab grass before installing? Removing 3 in o...
view the full question and answer

Cultivar of Cercis Canadensis from Haskell OK
May 16, 2012 - We have a Hearts of Gold Redbud that first had dark edges to many of its leaves (about 2 weeks after planting). It now has multiple leaves w/ medium-dark brown spots on them. Are we looking at some ...
view the full question and answer

Annual flowers for fall planting in San Antonio
June 22, 2010 - What are some recommended annual flowers for fall planting in a small garden in San Antonio? Also any help on planting and cultivating would be appreciated.
view the full question and answer

Taking bluebonnets to Anchorage AK from Sealy TX
June 10, 2010 - Moving to Anchorage Alaska from Texas and I am bringing bluebonnet seeds to plant there. Will the moose eat these plants/flowers?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center