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

Tuesday - June 12, 2012

From: Wesley Chapel, FL
Region: Southeast
Topic: Non-Natives, Compost and Mulch, Planting, Trees
Title: Transplant shock in non-native crape myrtle from Wesley Chapel, FL
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I just bought a 12 ft. crape myrtle and planted it, giving it plenty of water I think. After 3 days the leaves are wilting and flowers are falling off.

ANSWER:

Lagerstroemia indica, (crape myrtle), article from the United States National Arboretum, is native to Japan and China. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants grow natively. The reason for this is that plants native to an area have a better chance of surviving conditions where they are growing in which they have many centuries of experience, thus saving resources like money, water and back muscles.

This is a classic case of what we call wrong plant, wrong place, wrong time.

Wrong plant: Crape myrtle is native neither to North America nor to Florida.

Wrong place: We don't know where you planted your tree but if it was not in a hole bigger than the rootball, with additional  compost, and provisions for drainage, then it is in the wrong place. For care, see this article Crape Murder from Auburn University Extension.

Wrong time: Apparently you put this plant in the ground about the first of June, just when temperatures were really heating up in Florida (and everywhere else.) In warm temperature areas, we recommend that woody plants (trees and shrubs) be planted from November to January, when the plants are dormant. While this tree appreciates full sun, it doesn't like being planted when the full sun is blazing.

The last, wrong time, is probably one of the greatest causes for transplant shock. Plant that have possibly been in the pot in which they are purchased for more than a year, may need root pruning so the roots can grow into soil, instead of winding around and strangling the plant. It takes those new little rootlets a while to get out into the soil and start bringing water in for the stems and leaves. Without that cooling transpiration of water from the leaves, they will wilt; so would you. The flowers are discarded to reduce the load on the tree. Blooming requires a great deal of energy in a plant at a time when it needs all its energy to stay alive.

We don't know if this tree can be saved, but here are our recommendations:

1.  Don't fertilize, that just adds more stress to an already stressed tree.

2.  To water, stick a hose down in the (hopefully) soft soil around the tree and let the water drip slowly until it comes to the surface. Do this about twice a week during the hot weather unless you are getting a lot of rain.

3.  Get a good-quality shredded bark mulch and spread it about 4 inches deep around the root area, but do not allow it to crowd up against the trunk; this can cause insect and fungus damage. The mulch will help keep the roots cool or warm, as needed, hold in water and help to discourage weeds.

 

More Trees Questions

When is Texas mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa) mature
October 08, 2007 - Can you tell me the life cycle for the native Texas mesquite? I have found one source that says it matures in 2-5 years, but no other sources confirm this. We are hoping to classify mesquite flooring ...
view the full question and answer

Need a Replacement for Chinese Tallow tree in Austin, TX
November 26, 2014 - I live in Austin and have a large Chinese Tallow in my front yard. I would like to cut the tree down, but it provides shade to my home. I was hoping to start growing a native fruit/nut tree near the C...
view the full question and answer

Should I Prune Oak Trees in February in Wisconsin?
February 17, 2011 - I need to cut some oak branches but am worried about oak wilt. You told an earlier questioner not to cut in February. I live in Wisconsin and it has been very cold lately. Am I okay to cut the bran...
view the full question and answer

Nuttall oak to replace ornamental pears in Houston, TX?
February 08, 2011 - We recently bought a house in the heart of Houston that has 2 huge flaming pear trees that were planted too close to the house and just engulf the house. Our landscaper suggested taking them out and ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a moist, wooded area in North Carolina
December 06, 2014 - I am looking to plant some native flowers in a wooded area in Surry County NC. The chosen location is fully shaded beside a creek. The water table typically sets about 2 feet below the surface of th...
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