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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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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!

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Saturday - April 16, 2011

From: Highlands, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Esperanza freezing back in Highlands, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have an 3 yr. old Esperanza that froze the last two yrs. but grew back each spring. This spring after getting about 2 ft. the leaves at the bottom began turning brown at the edges and now seems to be spreading. What is causing this and what should I do?

ANSWER:

According to this USDA Plant Profile map on Tecoma stans (Yellow bells), also known as Esperanza, this plant grows natively nowhere near Harris County. Under Conditions Comments on our Native Plant Database on this plant, we found this statement:

"Conditions Comments: North American native varieties of this species can survive winters within their natural range but may die to the ground during especially harsh winters even there. Varieties sold in nurseries may be from tropical stock and not do so well in US cold." Another comment in Conditions is: "Soil Description: Well drained, rocky, limestone, sand, and loam soils." That doesn't sound much like the acidic, moist soils in East Texas, does it?

You will notice the part saying that nurseries may be selling varieties from tropical stock. You need to understand that just because something is sold locally does not mean it will do well locally.

In spite of this being a native plant, in spite of it being native to Texas, the plant you purchased may have been native to a tropical climate, and certainly is not native to East Texas. We really can't make any recommendations for fixing the problems your plant is having. We suspect it is sending you a message: "I'm through now." Don't fertilize it-never fertilize a plant that is already stressed. The fertilizer sends a "GROW" message to a plant struggling just to survive.

We are sorry, and if you lose your plant, we suggest you go to our Recommended Species section, and click on East Texas on the map. This will give you a list of 133 plants native to East Texas. By using the sidebar menu on the right-hand side of that page, you can select under General Appearance for "herb" (herbaceous blooming plants), "tree," "shrub," "vines," "grasses," "succulents" and "fern." You can also select on Light Requirements, soil moisture, even bloom time or color, if you wish.

The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants are being grown. They will require less (or none) fertilizer, supplementary watering or chemicals for them to prosper. Your chances of having a plant live go up as it planted in an area where it belongs.

 

 

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