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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:

 

 

 

 

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