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

How soon after stump grinding can something else be planted?
January 18, 2009 - How soon after cutting down a Mulberry and grinding up the stump can we plant a new tree in its place?
view the full question and answer

Ensuring survival of wax myrtle in Wilmington, NC
July 29, 2009 - I just transplanted some wax myrtle bushes. What do I need to do to insure they live?
view the full question and answer

PVC pipes for irrigation in ground in Austin
August 19, 2009 - Mr. Smarty Plants,What are your thoughts on installing PVC pipes into the ground around trees and shrubby trees? A classmate's grandmother had a pipe pushed or pounded into the ground near her speci...
view the full question and answer

Is Douglas maple (Acer glabrum var. douglassii) native
June 02, 2008 - Could you give me some information about Douglas maple? Moslty, I'm trying to find out if this plant is native or introduced to Idaho and/or U.S. Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Evergreen for privacy screen in Northern California
October 19, 2012 - Hello, My neighbor just logged their property and we need a very quick growing evergreen shrub/tree (for privacy of ugly cabin) that grows to at least 10' -15' tall. We live in northern Cal. about ...
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 | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center