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 06, 2012

From: Rosanky, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Trees
Title: Overwatering Texas Mountain Laurel from Rosanky TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I just read your article in the Statesman about over watering Mt.Laurel. Now I know why my lovely 15 year old tree is dying. We put in new grass this winter and I watered too much. Is there any hope of it coming back even though the leaves are now completely brown? It died quickly, just about last week. Is there anything I can do to help the situation? I am so sad. Thanks for your help.

ANSWER:

We would be surprised if a Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) went down that easily just because of overwatering. If you follow the plant link above to our webpage on the plant, you will learn it needs very good drainage. It could be that something that happened 15 years ago, as in the initial planting of the plant, may be the culprit. First of all, rearrange your sprinkler system, if that is how you have been watering the grass, so that it does not hit the Mountain Laurel. If the plant was not put in a hole with dirt amended for drainage, such as the addition of compost, decomposed granite or sand to the native soil, the sudden addition of more water may be drowning the tree.

Next, determine if the tree is really dead, using the thumbnail test. Starting on a limb as high as you can reach, scratch a thin sliver of bark off with your thumbnail. If you find a thin layer of green beneath that bark, that limb, at least, is still alive. If there is no underlayer of green on the first limb, work your way down the tree. If you get clear to the base, close to the roots, without finding green, the tree is probably gone. While you are doing that, look around for caterpillars or webs, even wilted leaves, which could indicate an insect problem. If you find some green area, while other limbs do not have that green layer, start by pruning off those dead limbs. This will take some strain off the tree as a whole. Do not fertilize. It seems that gardeners sometimes think a good dose of fertilizer will cure anything, including lightning damage. Actually a tree under stress, which yours obviously is, should never be fertilized.

Now that you have discontinued the overhead watering (you have, haven't you?), water the tree by sticking a hose deep down in the dirt close to the roots and let the water dribble until water appears on the surface. Do this no more than once a week, less if we are getting regular rains (not likely!)

One more bandaid that you could put on the tree is to spread a good quality shredded hardwood mulch on the root area. About two to four inches is good, but not up against the trunk, where it could cause insect or fungal damage. This will protect the roots from heat or cold and, as it decomposes, improve the texture and drainage of the dirt.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

More Planting Questions

Care for non-native hybrid hydrangea from Traverse City, MI
June 24, 2012 - We just planted some new Hydrangea (Summer Beauty) that we bought at a local nursery. The plants are about 3' tall with blooms on the stalks. The blooms appear to be top-heavy as most all the stalks ...
view the full question and answer

Color year round, welcome to Austin Texas.
December 04, 2011 - I am new to Austin and want to plant colorful flowers for fall and winter that get a "wow" reaction. I have not seen much at the local nurseries. Any and all suggestions are greatly appreciated!
view the full question and answer

Ornamental grasses under desert willows from Dallas, TX
September 06, 2013 - I am planning on planting 3 desert willows in full sun, below the power lines at the back of my back yard in the White Rock Lake area of Dallas. I would like to plant some ornamental grasses in the be...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for sun in Phenix City, AL
April 04, 2011 - I live in Phenix City, AL and am new to planting. I have a 60 x 15 feet slope that is just dirt. I am going to till it next week and want to plant some various ground cover plants (that will grow to c...
view the full question and answer

Flowers for sandy soil and sun in Wharton Co., TX
March 23, 2010 - I live in Wharton County. I am looking for flowers to plant in beds that have sandy soil and are well drained. The area receives sun all day until 5-6 in the afternoon. I would like to have flowers t...
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