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Mr. Smarty Plants - Non-native lambs ears wilting in heat from Fredericksburg TX

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Wednesday - October 19, 2011

From: Fredericksburg, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Watering, Drought Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Non-native lambs ears wilting in heat from Fredericksburg TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

3 days ago I had professional landscaping done in an area with plants that tolerate heat & sun well. We planted 7 healthy, large lambs ear & mulched. Everything planted is doing well except the lambs ear. They look fine in the am, but by noon the leaves are flat on the ground. If I water them..again, they perk up, but this has continued daily, and I don't want to over water & rot the leaves, but they look like they are dying. What's wrong with them?

ANSWER:

We want to apologize for the length of time it has taken for us to get back to you on this question. Since we work as a team, with individuals taking questions in their specific interest area, sometimes a question just drops into a crack somewhere. We usually answer questions within a week, if possible.

It may very well be too late for this information to do you much good, but for your future reference and others who might be curious about the same thing, we will try to answer your question.

This appears to be what we call a "wrong plant, wrong place, wrong time" situation. To begin with, Stachys byzantina, Lambs ear, is native to Turkey, Armenia and Iran. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center recommends only plants native not only to North America but to the area in which those plants grow natively; so this was the wrong plant. In the second place, as you can see from this article from Floridata, this plant does not do well above Zone 8, and if it is raised there, it needs some shade, particularly in the afternoon; therefore, wrong place. Finally, planting anything in the heat we have been having, and were still having in September when you had this planted is just asking for transplant shock, so it was the wrong time.

Beyond all that, we  are afraid this is another case of overwatering, which seems a bit strange in the middle of a drought. As you can see from article cited above, this plant needs very good drainage, so if it was planted in soil not prepared for good drainage, pouring water on it, especially directly on its leaves, was just drowning the plant. Furthermore, we believe that the intense heat has done at least as much plant damage as has the drought. Leaves, particularly large-leaved plants like Lambs ear, try to cut down on evaporation in those leaves and exposure to the sun by curling, "wilting," as it were and the excess water just added insult to injury.

In the future, we recommend you look before you leap, researching plants native to your area on our Native Plant Database, and planting them at the recommended time of the year, in soil amended for drainage-NOT, no, never, not in the heat of a Texas summer.

 

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