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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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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!

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Sunday - June 27, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Fertilizer producing leaves over flower production in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can you please list which Central Texas perennials' will favor leaf growth over flower production when fertilized? I have many in the "Grown Green" booklet and need to know which flowering plants should not be fertilized. Thank you.

ANSWER:

If the "Grow Green" booklet is the one we are thinking of, it includes plants that have adapted to Central Texas but are not necessarily native to Central Texas. One of the main arguments for using native plants is that a plant that has evolved over millennia in an area will be able to get along well without any outside intervention. Plants evolved to live in Central Texas are prepared for droughts, clay soil, high wind, heat and the insects that are also native here. Native plants do not demand fertilizer in order to survive, and some, like Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush) do not like to be fertilized. Native wildflower seeds, like Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), can live in the soil for years until some rain comes along. You can check in our Native Plant Database, using either the common name or the botanical name to search for the plants in your garden and indicate Texas for the state. If they don't appear in that database, they are probably non-native. Some may be native to other parts of the country, and some may be hybrids, which takes them out of our classification of "native." If you only know your plant by some trade name selected by retailers to catch the eye, you can try Googling on that name and see what you can find out about what the plant really is. Most native plants will not keel over and die if they are fertilized, but why spend the time and money as well as adding something else that can run off into our water tables?

 

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