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

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 Poisonous Plants Questions

Digging wild buttercup from roadside in Mechanicsville MD
May 28, 2012 - Mr. Smarty Plants, is it illegal to dig out wild buttercup in Maryland? I see them along the dirt road or just in the ditch. Since buttercup considered weed, I'm wondering what the law say about this...
view the full question and answer

Is Texas Mountain Laurel Honey Toxic in Fulshear, TX?
March 11, 2012 - Toxicity of Texas Mountain Laurel HONEY I know the seeds and leaves of the Tx Mountain Laurel are toxic. But, is honey that comes from the Mountain Laurel toxic too? I heard that it is, but can'...
view the full question and answer

Is red tip Photinia toxic to dogs?
September 18, 2012 - Is the red tip bush toxic to dogs?
view the full question and answer

Plant identification of tree in North Carolina
September 07, 2011 - I live in North Carolina have found a tree on our property that has thorny branches and round fruit (perfectly round) with a fuzzy outer layer that starts out green but then turns yellow. The inside r...
view the full question and answer

Are wild cherry trees poisonous for horses?
October 31, 2010 - I have just purchased a pony and have been told that wild cherry trees could cause harm or even kill her. Is this true and where can I go to get a list of all the poisonous plants, shrubs and trees fo...
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