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

Monday - March 26, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Watering, Shrubs
Title: Decline ot Heartleaf rosemallow from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My tulipan del monte -a new small plant from the wildflower center--did great all winter and was forming a new flower bud, just died in a matter of a few days. It looks like it "dried up", no visible damage, nothing broken, or eaten, but it has gotten plenty of moisture with our recent rains. Could it have gotten too much water? It's in regular garden soil, Austin, not clay.

ANSWER:

Hibiscus martianus (Heartleaf rosemallow)

The only thing that has truly changed since you purchased that plant in (we assume) the Fall Plant Sale, is that the rains have come back. Our best guess is that the plant did not have good enough drainage, which was okay when there wasn't any water anyway, but with the rains came the possibility of water standing on the roots of that plant. As you can see from this USDA Plant Profile, it grows naturally on the coast of South Texas. If we sold it in our Plant Sale, that means that our Garden staff were confident that it would thrive in Austin, but of course, when you bought it we were still in the grips of a drought.

From our webpage on this page (which read by following the plant link above) we found this information:

"Heartleaf hibiscus has spectacular flowers two and three inches across. It is a wonderful, small, drought-tolerant hibiscus from South Texas. For it to successfully winter in Austin, mulch or protect it adequately. Grows well in a container or in the ground."

We don't think we had enough cold last winter for this plant to suffer without mulch, but then, in comparison with South Texas, maybe we did. It is such a nice plant, with virtually year-round flowering in the right conditions, we are going to suggest desperate measures. Plants are tough, and this one may still be alive. Now, before it starts getting too hot, we suggest you carefully dig it back up, getting all the roots you can. Trim it back some, you may even hit some green wood, which definitely means it is alive and if you see any obviously rotted roots, trim them off, too, but leave as much root as you can. Next dig a bigger hole, and mix the native dirt with a good percentage of good quality compost. This not only will assist in drainage, but will help the tiny little rootlets that we hope will start to grow to access the trace minerals and nutrients they need from the soil. Do not fertilize. Native plants rarely need fertilization anyway, and no plant under stress (which this one obviously is) should be fertilized. Get it back in the ground, allowing the compost to heighten the planting spot, again helping with drainage. Stick a hose down in that soft soil and let the water dribble very slowly until water comes to the surface. Do that about once a week, at least until you can tell if it is established and alive. And mulch it right away, the mulch will help protect the roots from heat and cold, and as it decomposes will improve the texture of the soil.

It may not bloom again this year (after all, it's had a hard year, being dead and all), but we think it may come back in the Fall. Basically, we could blame this on transplant shock, which kills a lot of new plants. But transplant shock has many different causes, we just hope we found the right cause for your problem.

 

From the Image Gallery


Heartleaf rosemallow
Hibiscus martianus

More Shrubs Questions

Waxy deposits on Magnolia fuscata from Ethel LA
June 18, 2013 - I have a 4yr old Magnolia Fascata (aka banana shrub)- I noticed that it has small oval shaped yellow waxy deposits on the branches.. I have also noticed small black ants on the branches. The unknown d...
view the full question and answer

What gives the Creosote bush its characteristic smell?
August 09, 2011 - Good evening, Mr. Smarty Plants, There is a question which I would please like to ask regarding a plant called "Creosote Bush" (Larrea tridentata)- does it actually smell like the creosote...
view the full question and answer

Planting Texas Mountain Laurel seeds in Horse Shoe Bay,TX
July 09, 2012 - I have harvested Texas Mountain Laurel pods and extracted the seeds from the pods. The seeds are characteristic red/orange/maroon. When is the best time and best method to introduce seeds into pots? ...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for sandy soil and not much water
April 14, 2008 - I am planning a new garden at home and would like to grow native plants that can handle sandy soil and don't need much water. I do not water my gardens.I would prefer plants that can have more than o...
view the full question and answer

Root growth on non-native Pittisporum Tobira from San Francisco
October 29, 2011 - How do the roots grow and spread for the Pittosporum Tobira shrub? I have one that is about 20 feet tall and wonder how to care for it? Do you have a picture of how the roots grow?
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