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

Thursday - July 22, 2010

From: Magnolia, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils, Watering, Shrubs
Title: Limp leaves on Texas purple sage in Magnolia TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Recently planted Texas purple sage, some of it looks healthy and has new blooms, but a few of the plants have limp leaves and are thin at the bottom. I read the article on cotton root rot, but am not sure if that is the problem. Any information would be helpful.


We are going to assume that "Texas Purple Sage" is one of the many trade names for Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush). We hope that's what it is because it is a native, and we are pretty sure we know what the problem is. We usually refer to it as "cenizo" which is one of the many common names. Your problem most likely is that this plant is really a desert bush, and Magnolia is not desert. If you read the growing conditions from our Native Plant Database for this plant below, you will see what we mean:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rocky, well-drained soils. Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Caliche type
Conditions Comments: According to legend, cenizo tends to bloom in conjunction with rainfall. Cenizo is easy to grow so long as it has good drainage. Though this species is the most irrigation-tolerant of the genus, it is susceptible to cotton root rot if soil does not have good drainage and remains moist. Humidity and high night temperatures are lethal. Cenizos should not be fertilized or over-watered. Drought- and heat-tolerant. During very cold winters, may lose a few leaves."

Note in particular it needs well-drained soils, and if you are growing it in a clay soil, it is probably not well-drained at all. Note also that humidity and high night temperatures are "lethal." The plant should never be fertilized and watered sparingly. If you have a sprinkler system, that plant is in trouble. It is one of our favorite plants, and we know you probably bought it from a nursery in your area, but it's hard to change a plant's ways. If you can find ways to change the drainage, working compost in around the roots, cutting down on the water, and cutting out the fertilizer, it might be saved. It will bloom better in full sun, which we consider to be 6 or more hours of sun a day.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Leucophyllum frutescens

Leucophyllum frutescens

Leucophyllum frutescens

Leucophyllum frutescens






More Watering Questions

Watering Native Trees in Georgetown, TX
July 19, 2012 - I installed a native/adapted plantscape in early March including several small trees. They were planted in the rocky soil west of I-35 in Georgetown with plenty of added compost and mulch. Other than ...
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant plants from New Braunfels TX
August 31, 2012 - I have a 1/2 yard covered by a tree, shady. Bermuda grass previous owner planted has all turned brown this summer. I don't have lots of money to work with but would love to landscape that side of fr...
view the full question and answer

Topmost leaves on yucca are brown
June 08, 2009 - I live in the Lansing, Michigan area, in the lower peninsula and have a couple yuccas whose topmost leaves are brown emerging from winter. Do I prune those, or has the plant died? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Poor drainage in wildflower bed
November 10, 2004 - I have a flower bed that has given me difficulty because it has poor drainage but typically receives sun for most of the day. Salvia gregii was the only survivors for the initial landscaping attempt. ...
view the full question and answer

Watering oaks during drought in Austin
July 29, 2009 - Should we be watering our live oaks and Spanish oaks during this drought? How often and how much?
view the full question and answer

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