En EspaŅol

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
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

Monday - April 26, 2010

From: Albany, GA
Region: Southeast
Topic: Transplants, Trees
Title: Failure to bud out of nuttall oak in Albany GA
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We planted a nutall oak in the fall of 09. It seemed to fare well during the winter. It is now spring and all of our other trees are budding out. The limbs are flexible. Not breaking off easily like the tree is alive. Yet not budding out. Any suggestions?


First, let's establish the Latin name for your oak. This once was Quercus nuttalli, but we discovered that is a no-longer used synonym for Quercus texana (Texas red oak). Ever so often, botanists in their infinite wisdom decide to change the names of lots of plants. Some retailers are obviously still using the name "Nuttall,' which was named "nuttalli"  in 1927 for Thomas Nuttall, a British-American botanist. So, we'll call the Nuttall oak, Quercus Texana. In spite of its new name, this USDA Plant Profile shows that it does grow in or near Dougherty County in southwest Georgia. Having established that it does belong where it is growing, we will need to look for some other reason for your tree not budding out, yet.

You didn't say what size your tree was when it was planted. Sometimes a newly planted tree will have a certain amount of transplant shock. It is working very hard to get its roots established to get nutrients and water up to the part of the tree which should be budding out. Also, southern Georgia, with most of the rest of the country, had a pretty severe winter, with surprise freezes. Again, for a newly planted tree, this could be retarding its development. Do the thumbnail test, scratching a very thin bit of the outer skin off, beginning at the top and working down. At some point, you should find a thin layer of green beneath that outer skin; if you do not, going clear down to where it emerges from the soil, the tree is probably dead. 

What do we suggest? Patience; if is still alive it will get its leaves out soon, they are needed to manufacture food through photosynthesis for the whole tree. Do not fertilize!  Native plants ordinarily don't need any fertilizer at all, and certainly don't need it shocking the roots and trying to encourage bloom from a tree still trying to keep its roots alive.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Quercus texana

Quercus texana

Quercus texana

Quercus texana






More Transplants Questions

Decline of indoor lemon cypress
June 25, 2008 - I received a lemon cypress as a gift. I have kept it indoors in bright light and tried to keep it moist. When I received the plant the foliage was soft and now it has become brittle and dry even tho...
view the full question and answer

Need suggestions for plants to form a privacy hedge in Granbury, TX.
April 14, 2011 - We live on a rocky hill in Hood County, Tx. and need suggestions for evergreen anything that will provide privacy. Red Cedars were added in October 2010 and it looks as if half of those are dying. He...
view the full question and answer

Time to transplant shade tree seedlings from San Antonio
September 28, 2013 - What month do you transplant shade tree seedlings in San Antonio, TX<
view the full question and answer

Dwarf golden cypress outgrowing their space
December 28, 2008 - I planted two dwarf golden cypress on opposite sides of a dwarf alberta spruce in a small bed by the front door. After 4 years I have to severely prune back the dwarf cypress in spring as they will sp...
view the full question and answer

Non-native Japanese maple seedling in Rotterdam NY
August 09, 2010 - In the first couple days of August, I discovered a baby Japanese Maple growing against the wall of my storage shed, a short distance from a neighbor's full grown Japanese Maple. I transplanted this 5...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center