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?

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
    
 
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

Wednesday - May 05, 2010

From: McGregor, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Shrubs
Title: Esperanza turning brown in McGregor TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Why are my Esperanza turning brown?

ANSWER:

We're not sure we have enough information to answer your question. Tecoma stans (yellow trumpetbush) is native to South Texas, and there are several different species and cultivars that have varying degrees of cold tolerance. McGregor is in the Blackland Prairie region of Texas, with deep lush soils. From our Native Plant Database, here are the Growing Conditions for Tecoma stans:

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well drained, rocky, limestone, sand, and loam soils
Conditions Comments: North American native varieties of this species can survive winters within their natural range but may die to the ground during especially harsh winters even there. Varieties sold in nurseries may be from tropical stock and not do so well in US cold. Yellow bells is drought tolerant and Southwestern varieties are adapted to monsoon rains with dry spells between. They may flower better if such conditions are emulated in planned landscapes, so allow ground to dry out between waterings. It is tolerant of confinement if containers are at least 12 inches in diameter and thus makes a good potted specimen. 

You can see that your soils are not what this plant is accustomed to, and Texas has certainly had some early freezes and late freezes this year that might be daunting to a more tropical plant, such as is sold in nurseries. Plant retailers find an annual of this plant more marketable as a patio plant for Zone 9. So, if you bought it already flowering, it may have been one of the tropical cultivars that could not take our winter. McGregor is in USDA Hardiness Zone 8a, which would be all right for the perennial versions, although they might die back to the ground in severe weather.

Since we don't have the answers to the questions of origin of the plant or how long it has been in the ground or if it is getting enough sun, etc. we will generalize some things you can do that won't hurt it and hopefully will help it.

Check the drainage. In your soils, particularly if you are watering, there could be water standing on the roots, which this basically desert plant cannot tolerate. Trim off about 1/3 of the upper growth on the plant, which is what we recommend for transplant shock, which might also be the problem. Do not fertilize-any plant under stress does not need fertilizer to encourage new growth, when its main energies are focused on keeping its roots alive. Control the amount of water it gets-if you have a sprinkler system that regularly waters it, try to re-route the water to cut down from the amount that is going into the soils. The leaves that are turning brown will fall off, they are already dead. Best scenario, there is still enough life in the roots that they can start putting up shoots at the base of the plant and regenerate it. Worst scenario, it is a tropical version of the plant never intended to live more than one year in your area, and is already dead. 

Moral: Try to find out more about whatever plant you see before you buy it. Our mission is to encourage the use of plants that are native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. This is a prime example of why that is a good policy.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery: 


Tecoma stans

Tecoma stans

Tecoma stans

Tecoma stans

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Shrub or tree for large pot in Austin
May 18, 2010 - I have a front-door entryway that faces east, what 3-4 foot shrub/tree would best survive in a large pot? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Salt tolerant plants for Long Beach
May 12, 2013 - When Hurricane Sandy hit Long Beach, it has killed all my plants and now almost all of Long Beach is left with dead dried brown vegetation. I want to replant front with bushes and flowers. What woul...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a steep slope in New York
June 27, 2010 - We just installed a swimming pool in our back yard, which is at the top of a south facing slope. After the pool was installed the slope is now 3 ft higher and very steep (unmowable). I'd guess steepe...
view the full question and answer

Lack of Blooms and Low Hanging Limbs on Mountain Laurels
August 06, 2014 - My mountain laurel didn't bloom this year but has a few hard pods on it. It is 9 ft tall but very top heavy with most growth low. I need to prune it a lot at the bottom because it has branches hangi...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a condo garden in Decatur GA
February 12, 2009 - I recently moved into a condo in Decatur (just outside Atlanta). I am now working on the back yard - just a patio and dirt right now. It is a small space and is shaded much of the day but does get s...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center