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

Ashe Juniper not doing well in San Antonio
April 08, 2010 - A large ash juniper (mountain cedar) in my yard appears to be sick or dying. Approximately 1/4 of the canopy has very sparse needles/green foliage stuff and shaggier than normal bark. It's not brown ...
view the full question and answer

Lifespan of Screwbean mesquite from Amargosa Valley NV
March 15, 2012 - I see the lifespan of the honey mesquite but not the screwbean (especially in the southern Nevada area - Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge area). What is their normal lifespan?
view the full question and answer

Acacia tree that will grow in Louisiana
July 13, 2011 - Please tell me if there are any Acacia Trees that will grow in direct sun in Louisiana. I really want to plant some from seeds but don't which to get for zone 8. Thank you Mr Smarty Plants
view the full question and answer

Is it OK to remove soil around oaks - Austin, TX.
May 24, 2013 - I have several oaks trees (one live oak + burr oaks) from 15'-35' in height. They seem healthy. A local arborist says they were planted too deep and that the soil around them needs to be excavated t...
view the full question and answer

Possible disease on Eastern Redbud
October 06, 2007 - Our Eastern Redbud appears to be suffering from our recent drought. The leaves are turning brown in July/August on a few branches. A few black spots appear on the leaves before they turn brown. Ot...
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