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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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Thursday - April 21, 2011

From: St. Augustine, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Seasonal Tasks
Title: Late blooming Esperanza in St. Augustine FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I bought an Esperanza at a plant expo- I was told it was a Florida native Allamanda. It took me two years to figure out what I had. Mine grows 8 ft. tall and is huge! But it doesn't bloom until almost August, and then not many blooms. It comes back each year after the freeze. But is there anyway to get him to bloom sooner and more often? I only paid $3 bucks for him 3 years ago.. so if it's hopeless -it's ok.. I got my money of of this plant. He's indestructible. But his flowers are so pretty- I want to see more. Thank you!

ANSWER:

Okay, let us get this straight. You bought a plant called "Allamanda" but figured out it was Esperanza. The only plant in our Native Plant Database with "esperanza" as one of its common names is Tecoma stans (Yellow bells). From our webpage on this plant:

"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 Florida, 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 Florida, the plant you purchased may have been native to a tropical climate.  According to this USDA Plant Profile map St. John's County in northeastern Florida does not have esperanza growing natively. If it is, indeed, Tecoma stans (Yellow bells), it blooms in its native habitat from April to November. You can't force a plant to bloom any time it is not ready, so we feel the environment may be shortening the blooming period.

So, let's explore one more possibility. Maybe the plant you purchased is Allamanda cathartica, Golden Trumpet, which is native to Brazil. See this article on this plant in Floridata. which explains why it freezes so readily. Pictures from Google.

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.

 

From the Image Gallery


Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

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