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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






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