En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
1 rating

Thursday - November 04, 2010

From: Lago Vista, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Thuja arborvitae not thriving in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I planted 5 giant thuja arborvitae two years ago. They have grown six inches and aren't doing that well. I live in Austin Texas and it was a hot summer. I water them 2x a week, now 1x a week. They are looking brown(dead) on a few limbs or leaves. What is the best fertilizer for them and when and how ofter to apply?

ANSWER:

This USDA Plant Profile map for Thuja occidentalis (Arborvitae) shows it growing no nearer to Austin than Tennessee. An article on Thuja occidentalis, also known as White Cedar, by Earl J. S. Rook, described its range as: "Manitoba to the Gaspé, south to Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, upstate New York, and northern New England. Isolated populations farther to the south, especially in the Appalachians."

From our own database page on this tree: "Native Habitat: Swampy areas; lake margins; open, rocky hillsides." Doesn't sound much like Austin, does it?

We realize you probably bought your trees locally, thinking that if they were sold here, they would thrive here; unfortunately, that is not always the case. We urge gardeners to check on any plant's viability in the area where they wish to plant it, before they buy the plant. If the plant is native to North America (which this one is, just not our part of North America) you can find it on our Native Plant Database. You can search for it either on a common name or scientific name. Sometimes plants are sold under trade names which are intended to sell the plant, not give you information about it. However, you can search on the Internet on the trade name and probably find the information you need.

As far as fertilizer is concerned, fertilizing stressed plants, which yours obviously are, can cause more harm than good. The fertilizer will push the plant to put on more foliage when that plant is already exhausted just trying to stay alive in a hostile environment. You will have to decide if you want to continue to expend resources-water, time, fertilizer, etc.-on what may well be a lost cause. Sorry.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

This picture was taken in Cudahy, Wisconsin.


Thuja occidentalis

 

 

More Trees Questions

Replacing river birch from Maple Grove MN
April 22, 2014 - How soon after taking out a river birch clump tree and grinding the stump would we be able to plant a new birch clump?
view the full question and answer

Pruning Bald Cypress in Wylie, TX
January 02, 2010 - I have a 6 year old bald cypress that sustained damage to the upper portion of its trunk a couple of years ago. Since that time it has grown more outward than upward and developed a rounder shape. I...
view the full question and answer

Controlling oak suckers in Austin
January 26, 2012 - I live in Austin TX and have one particular native Oak tree in my back yard with a large bed around it. I don't plan on planting anything else in the bed since it is already nicely landscaped along ...
view the full question and answer

Failure to bloom of Magnolia in Webster FL
May 24, 2009 - Do all Magnolias Bloom? I live in Central Florida - transplanted a Magnolia 7 1/2 years ago. It is a beautiful tree - very healthy - at least 10-12 ft. It has never had a bloom!! I have another li...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for shade in Ennis TX
August 26, 2011 - My house faces south. The southwest side of the front yard has a Pride of Houston, Japanese Barberry, 2 crape myrtles and some dwarf yaupon hollies. The other section, divided by a stairway to the p...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center