En Español

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

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!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Wednesday - June 22, 2011

From: Jacksonville, FL, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Container Gardens, Poisonous Plants
Title: Plants in wheelbarrow dying in Jacksonville, FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I planted a wheelbarrow with daisies, petunias and black and blue salvia. the salvia is thriving, but the others died. Is the salvia toxic to them?

ANSWER:

No, the salvia did not kill the other plants. The real news here is that the salvia survived. We all see pictures of plants growing in wheelbarrows, especially in "country" gardens, which is a misnomer, because in the real country wheelbarrows are used to haul stuff, not as planters. What you created is basically a container garden. We would like to say the salvia survived because it is native, but all of the plants you listed are either non-native or extensively hybridized, so we can't get away with that. Please read our How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants.

Since we obviously don't know the whole story, we will offer some conjectures on what went wrong. The first thing that comes to mind is that of poor drainage. Very few plants, except water plants, can survive long with poor drainage. Water or very soggy soil on the roots will kill the plants fairly quickly. Just guessing, but perhaps the salvia were in the "uphill" side of the wheelbarrow and the surplus water drained down, and was trapped there, around the roots of the other plants. So, if you did not drill drainage holes in the wheelbarrow before you put the potting soil in it, that could be the scenario.

The second thought has to do with location, location, location. Was the wheelbarrow in a sunny or shady spot? We consider sun to be 6 hours or more of sun daily, part shade 2 to 6 hours of sun, and shade 2 hours or less of sun. Since we have only salvia in our Native Plant Database, and just guessing that your hybrids would have followed the norm, we chose to look in our Native Plant Database at Salvia coccinea (Scarlet sage), which is native to Florida. According to the information on the page devoted to that plant, it has medium water usage, can grow in sun, part shade or shade. So, that plant was already prepared to grow in whatever sunlight was available, but we don't know about the other plants.

Another possibility is that the wheelbarrow might have materials already in it that could be contaminating to the plants. For instance, we always used our (metal) wheelbarrow to mix concrete in small batches. When we moved away a lady bought that wheelbarrow at our garage sale to put plants in. We did warn her that it had been used for concrete mix, and she assured us that was okay, she was going to plant in it. Of course, we never heard the outcome, but there are components of concrete that could damage plant roots as it seeped up into the soil.

And finally, plants die, and Mr. Smarty Plants can only wonder why. Perhaps they had already been damaged or become pot bound before you ever purchased them. Maybe they couldn't take the temperatures in which they were placed, or they may have been annuals that bloom, set seed and die, all in a period of a few weeks sometimes. If you are determined to go the wheelbarrow route, we would suggest you plant in individual terracotta pots, which will solve your drainage problem IF you drill holes in the wheelbarrow. Plant roots can rot just as well in water standing outside the container as inside.

 

More Container Gardens Questions

Care of Florida Blue or Lisiantus in Houston
October 24, 2005 - I'm in Houston, Texas and I'm growing, for the first time, Florida blues, Eustoma, purple. Since I am from California I'm not familiar with this plant. It's beautiful. How do I care for them i...
view the full question and answer

Growing bluebonnets in pot in Flower Mound TX
November 01, 2011 - We received a package of bluebonnet seeds along with the DVD Wildflowers: Seeds of History as a gift. In the film, Andrea DeLong mentions that bluebonnets did not grow well in a rich organic soil. W...
view the full question and answer

Failure of Gerbera daisies in hanging basket
July 08, 2008 - I had perennial Gerbera daisies in a hanging basket, the flowers died,I was not sure whether to remove just the flower or to go from the flower to the stem at the plants main stem? There is nothing re...
view the full question and answer

Planting Texas Mountain Laurel to transplant to Dallas
August 29, 2012 - My daughter would like to incorporate a tree planting ceremony in her wedding in Texas. The seedling would be planted in a pot for a few years and later transplanted in a yard when they buy a home. Wo...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for container gardening in Houston
April 26, 2008 - Hi, we live a townhouse community in Houston, TX and have a decent sized backyard. I plan on devoting part of that to plant some potted flowers which are less than 6 ft tall (we can't plant anything ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center