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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - April 27, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Why did my Prairie Flax plant die in Austin, TX?
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Hello, We planted 4 prairie flax last fall in garden. They were all growing nicely until last month when I found that one of them has completely dried up and died. The plants are planted together and the other three seem to be thriving. What could've have caused one of them to dry up and die? We have had a lot of rain this winter and I don't believe it is due to lack of water. Thanks,

ANSWER:


 Prairie Flax Linum lewisii (Wild blue flax), also known as Lewis Flax,  is an attractive plant with delicate blue flowers, and is distributed across Canada and the western 2/3 of the US. This site for University of Utah Cooperative Extension describes it as an annual or short-lived perennial, and attributes the name Lewis Flax as a tribute to Capt. Meriwether Lewis of the Lewis and Clark expedition.

Its hard to determine why an individual plant dies, even when one is there to view the remains. Was there any sign of insects, or fungus, or a larger varmint e.g. a cat, squirrel or dog?

According to the NPIN Plant Profile, the plant grows best under these conditions:
Growing Conditions
Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Drought Tolerance: High
Soil Description: Sand

You mention water; plants can die from overwatering as well as under watering.  A combination of poorly draining soil and the winter rains may have done your Prairie Flax in. Be sure not to overwater your remaining plants. Here’s a link with some tips about watering your plants.


 

From the Image Gallery


Wild blue flax
Linum lewisii

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