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?

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

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

Saturday - September 04, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Watering, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Blackfoot daisy declining in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My Blackfoot Daisies have grown large, bushy, have bloomed well over the past two summers. Now parts of the plants are drying up, dying. Will pruning out the dead parts help the plants to survive, or should I just pull them out and start over with new plants?

ANSWER:

We always find the Growing Conditions on the page on each particular plant in our Native Plant Database pretty instructive. Here are the growing conditions for Melampodium leucanthum (plains blackfoot):

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil pH: Acidic (pH<6.8)
Soil Description: Dry, rocky, calcareous soils. Rocky, Gravelly Sandy, Limestone-based, Caliche type
Conditions Comments: Blackfoot daisy is a sturdy, mounding plant, that will flourish in rock gardens. It is heat and drought tolerant. Good drainage is essential to its success. In late winter, older plants can be cut back halfway to keep them compact. Rich soil and abundant water will likely produce many more flowers in the short-term, but may consequently shorten the lifespan.

We have emphasized the last line, because many native plants really need no fertilizer and little additional water. You might be overloving your plant. Much as we sound like a broken record, this has been a very difficult year for native plants in Central Texas. We had unusual spells of very cold weather (for this part of the country), followed by a Spring in which the rains came back, and a Summer in which they went away again. With the nice rains in the Spring, many native plants responded over-enthusiastically, and put on extra growth, and then got the shock of heat and drought later in the Summer.

We're going to suggest a little additional water on your plants, but no fertilizer. You should never fertilize a plant under stress, which yours apparently are. Then, in late Fall, cut the plants back to just a few inches above the ground. If you want to clip out the dead parts now, just for appearance sake, that certainly won't hurt them. 

The Blackfoot Daisy ordinarily blooms from March to November, so it would be worthwhile to try to keep the ones you have blooming and healthy. 

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Melampodium leucanthum

Melampodium leucanthum

Melampodium leucanthum

Melampodium leucanthum

 

 

 

 

More Pruning Questions

Best time of year to trim oak trees from Beloit WI
July 23, 2010 - What is the best time of year to trim oak trees?
view the full question and answer

Cold damage to Texas wild olive tree in San Antonio
May 02, 2010 - I have a Texas Olive tree that was unprotected from the 2010 cold winter here in San Antonio, TX. It is the end of April and there is no sign of growth on any of the branches. If the tree is still a...
view the full question and answer

Eradication of mahonia repens
July 27, 2008 - What is the best way to kill and/or remove mahonia repens?
view the full question and answer

Pruning Citrus Suckers
October 06, 2014 - Mr. Smarty Plants, you are the only person that has "not" insisted that the little balls on Satsuma and lemon trees were clumps of bugs. They are surely what you described in the answer to my previo...
view the full question and answer

Failure to bloom of Texas Mountain Laurel
April 15, 2008 - My +/- 4 yr old Tx. Mountain Laurel, has never bloomed. It is in full sun. I sometimes (minimal) fertilize it. I've pretty much planted it and let it grow. Its been pruned back last year when som...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center