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?


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
Not Yet Rated

Friday - September 16, 2011

From: Johnson City, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Pruning, Watering, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Sad Germanders in Johnson City Texas
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse


I have some grey bush germanders that never seem to do well although they did at first when I planted them four years ago. They have sun and dappled shade on the south side of the house. A friend in Westlake got rid of his because of the same problem. What are their fertilizer and sun requirements?


Although we have native germanders here in the states and in Texas, when talking about a bush germander most are talking about the non native Teucrium fruticans 'Azureum' which is a tropical Mediterranean plant. And although this plant has proven to be a good work horse for heat and drout tolerance here in Texas, it wants most of its water to come from the sea air, something that Johnson City and the rest of the Hill Country are lacking. 

Our mission here at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to promote native plants, so our expertise with this plant might not be up to par with our usual spot-on precision. We will try to help you out with your germander, the best we can.

Germanders, native and non native alike, love heat and full sun. As you have dappled sun and shade it might be that yours is looking for a little more light. The other quality that the natives and non natives share, is that they tolerate, if not prefer, rough infertile soil. They have to have good drainage. They can't have their feet stay wet for too long. So if this plant is in fancy soil, and on an irrigation system, it probably is not drying out enough between waterings. If this is the situation, back off on the watering and give it a bit of general fertilizer, a 20/20/20 mix, nothing too strong. Or a good dose of compost tea of some kind and see if that doesn't perk it up. 

These are the best case fixes. This is stuff you can control. The last guess might be the most logical one but the saddest, and this might be why your friend had the same problem. The native germanders do better than the Mediterranean ones because most have shiny smooth leaves. Mediterranean germanders have fuzzy, slightly glabrous leaves which can capture and hold water from the air. This year we had good humidity early in the season but all of that dried up and it has been as dry above ground as it has been below, and this might be the cause of your plants' unhappiness. You could try and water the plant from above in a spray type fashion by hand in the early morning or best after the sun has set, to see if that doesn't fool it. Also try and keep from pruning it at all, until next spring. The plant will do better if it is bushy, trapping any air moisture in its leaves. 

In case your germander doesn't make it, you might try native Teucrium cubense (Coast germander). It is smaller than the bush germander but has the same flower shape and look. If you are growing your bush germander for the blue foliage then you might also want to consider a native Cenizo. This plant looks a lot like the bush germander, slightly bigger leaves and much bigger flowers. This plant is tough and has the blueish silver tint to the leaves and would give your space a similar look. Leucophyllum candidum (Brewster county barometerbush) , Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo)





From the Image Gallery

Leucophyllum frutescens

Leucophyllum frutescens

Coast germander
Teucrium cubense

More Pruning Questions

Evergreen privacy screen 8 feet or less
January 29, 2016 - In needing to plant an evergreen privacy screen, what is the tallest Ceniza variety? I'm having great difficulty finding an evergreen hedge material 8' or less. After having taken a class in pla...
view the full question and answer

Reducing the Height of a Redbud Tree
January 23, 2016 - We have a very large, about 15-year old, Redbud tree that is growing so tall it's obstructing our view of the river. How and when can we prune this tree back so it does not hurt the tree.
view the full question and answer

Pruning smoketree in New Jersey
May 29, 2009 - How far from ground level do I prune a relatively young Smoke tree to get the bush effect?
view the full question and answer

Survival of native yaupon in The Woodlands, TX after hurricane
September 25, 2008 - One of my large native yaupons trees (8ft) fell away from a group during the hurricane. I have uprighted and tied it off for stability. Now the leaves are all brown and falling. Is the tree dead or...
view the full question and answer

Conditions for wisteria bloom on Ontario, Canada
November 05, 2005 - I live in Ontario Canada, and about 4 years ago I bought a shrub which was called wisteria. I loved this bush when I visited a cousin out in British Columbia. The problem is it has no trouble growing ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center