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

Tuesday - May 04, 2010

From: Colorado Springs, CO
Region: Rocky Mountain
Topic: Trees
Title: Can a soapberry tree be grown in Colorado Springs?
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I live in Colorado Springs and I was wondering if it is possible to grow a soapberry tree here?


Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii (western soapberry) is native to Colorado; however, this USDA Plant Profile does not show it as growing in El Paso County, but rather in two counties in extreme southeastern  Colorado, which, if we properly remember our Colorado geography, is an area of plains. Colorado Springs, in USDA Plant Hardiness Zones 5a to 5b and at over 6000 ft. in elevation, would probably prove a challenge to a plant that grows more profusely in Texas, Oklahoma and the southern portion of Kansas. Also, it is only considered hardy from Zones 6 to 9. In the Growing Conditions paragraph from our Native Plant Database, below, the most telling obstacle is in the last line, which we have highlighted. If you can't buy a started plant, and there are no wild plants around for seed, you could have a real problem.

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Rich, limestone soils.
Conditions Comments: An attractive and hardy tree, useful as a specimen or in groves. Can become a large tree in deep soil. In shallow soil it often remains a small tree. The fruits are considered to be poisonous to humans although they produce a good lather in water and are used in Mexico as a laundry soap. Both females and males have fruits; males are showier. Soapberry often suckers and form groves. Tolerant of drought, wind, heat, poor soil, air pollution and other city conditions. Not affected by disease or insects. Currently difficult to find in the nursery trade. 

One possibility would be to take cuttings and attempt to root them. This would be feasible if you travel somewhere they grow naturally, and you got permission to take several cuttings. If you are interested in trying that, and we don't guarantee they will flourish, read this article from North Carolina State University Extension Plant Propagation byh Stem Cuttings: Instructions for the Home Gardener.  From this USDA Forest Service website on Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii, we learned that hardwood or softwood cuttings taken in May, June or July can root in 5 to 6 weeks, if properly treated. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii





More Trees Questions

Baby mountain laurels are ready to move, in Lockhart Texas
October 19, 2011 - I want to harvest the baby mountain laurel plants which are growing under a large bush. What height would be best for the young plants survival? Please recommend a soil mixture for the pots.
view the full question and answer

Probably non-native crapemyrtle trees damaged by hurricane
January 15, 2009 - I have 5 crape myrtle trees. I live in Galveston, Tx and when Hurricane Ike came through in September the salt water I think killed them. They have not come back since then and are brown with no leave...
view the full question and answer

Butterfly Plants for Chicago
September 13, 2014 - I live near Chicago, IL and am interested in planting a butterfly garden. Not sure when to start, but I want all native plants that would attract butterflies. Can you please let me know which plants ...
view the full question and answer

Sun-scorched Cherry laurel (Prunus caroliniana)
June 24, 2009 - I live in south Central Texas 30 miles north of San Antonio. I am looking for a good evergreen hedge plant that once established will not die if I forget to water it a few days and is deer resistant....
view the full question and answer

Tree options for patio in Sun City West, Arizona.
January 07, 2011 - We have an area near our cement patio in Sun City West AZ where we would like to plant a shade tree. We planted a sissoo tree, but were told that the roots will damage the patio because of the proximi...
view the full question and answer

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