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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - December 08, 2010

From: Utopia, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Diseases and Disorders, Transplants
Title: Blackened leaves on purple sage in Utopia TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in Utopia Texas and have a 5-ft. Texas Purple Sage that has developed a black appearance on the leaves. What is this and what can I do about it?

ANSWER:

There are a number of different plants, mostly in the genus Salvia, that have the common name "Purple Sage." However, judging from the height you indicated, we are guessing that what you have is Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo). Without seeing the plant, knowing where it is planted in your landscape or what the soil is, we can only hazard some guesses, and you can use your judgment deciding what might be the problem.

You can follow the plant link above to learn about the preferred growing conditions for this plant. The first thing we would emphasize is that it needs very good drainage in the soil. In the first few months it is in the ground, it needs some deep watering, which is done by sticking a hose down in the soil and letting water dribble slowly in. If water comes to the surface when this is done and does not quickly disappear, the drainage is inadequate. If we are correct about which plant you are referring to, it does, indeed, grow natively in Uvalde County, so the USDA Hardiness Zone is appropriate for it.

If the plant is being watered by a sprinkler system, and especially if the drainage is poor, there is likely not only the drowning roots to consider, but a sooty mold caused by wetting the leaves. Also, the plant needs to be in full sun, which we consider to be 6 hours or more of sun daily. It will survive in part shade, 2 to 6 hours of sun, but will not bloom as well and, again, be susceptible to fungus.

If you feel the drainage is the problem, we would suggest you consider re-planting the bush. This is the right time of year for doing this, while the plant is semi-dormant. Dig a fresh hole, moving into more sunlight, if necessary, and add a good compost or other organic material. This will both improve drainage and enhance the roots' ability to access nutrients in the soil. Do not fertilize! This particular plant does not need fertilizer and you should never fertilize any plant under stress. After the drainage is corrected, a period of deep watering should be all that is necessary. Once well-established, the Cenizo is very drought-resistant.

One other possibility we will mention concerning the black appearance. Examine your plant for aphids. They excrete a substance called honeydew, on which a sooty mold can appear. They will not harm a healthy plant, but the appearance is unattractive.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Leucophyllum frutescens


Leucophyllum frutescens


Leucophyllum frutescens


Leucophyllum frutescens

 

 

 

More Transplants Questions

Bluebonnets in pots in New Caney, TX
April 25, 2009 - My mother in New Caney (Texas), would like to plant Bluebonnets in some lovely terra cotta containers on her porch (and will hopefully mail me some dried pressings of my beloved state flower). Other t...
view the full question and answer

Century plant offshoots in Denver
January 01, 2009 - Each year I get a small "baby" Century Plants in the early winter..December - January, But it dies off before summer. We live in Denver, CO My main plant is doing fine. Also, should I cut the lo...
view the full question and answer

Propagation of Lime Prickly Ash in Austin
March 22, 2010 - We found only one small what we think is Zanthoxylum fagara or Lime Prickly Ash, Colima on our 8 acres, and the deer had apparently recently broken the main stem. I quickly made 6 or 7 cuttings, dippe...
view the full question and answer

Amendments for faster-growing trees from Bulverde TX
July 04, 2010 - What faster growing trees will grow in black gumbo clay that is about 12 inches deep above caliche rock in full sun with a sprinkler system set on 1 inch/week? How many and how much amendments such...
view the full question and answer

Division of impatiens grown in a pot
December 08, 2007 - I have an impatient and it is growing out of the pot. I was wondering if it were possible to divide it somehow and have two medium size plants.
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center