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

Sunday - March 17, 2013

From: Round Rock,, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch
Title: Use of free cedar mulch in Round Rock, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Round Rock provides city residents free mulch to pick up. It is all cedar apparently. I am turning my now dead, mostly clay, very alkaline and rocky thin soil front lawn into a bigger flower bed of mostly Texas natives for butterflies and birds. I'm expanding a flower bed into the lawn to do so. I have a 20 year old bed of blue mist flowers the butterflies love and flame acanthus that hummingbirds love. I've added Damianita, Blackfoot Daisy, Rudbeckia, Frog Fruit, Skullcap (may not be native), Aster, Butterfly weed, and I also have already some antique roses into the lawn area and around the porch. Question: I want to use this free Cedar Mulch all around the new native plants on the lawn. I put a couple of layers of newspapers down, then a 4" thick layer of cedar mulch. Is that too thick? Is cedar mulch OK to use on a native Texas plant bed? I know you usually don't answer about roses, I have also mulched around a Mutabilis rose with the same cedar mulch. Perhaps a friend can answer that one. The mulch is already dried and on its way to decomposition, not still green, but it does have a few big sticks in it still. Any advice appreciated. Thank you so much for the service you provide!

ANSWER:

Before we do anything else, let us congratulate you on your largely native-to-Texas garden you have been nurturing, apparently for many years. We are very tempted to say "whatever you have been doing, keep doing it." You obviously have also been choosing plants native to Central Texas, which can sometimes be a challenge with its alklaline, rocky soils.

To address your actual question, we are always in favor of using natural mulch, including that of shredded Juniperus ashei (Ashe juniper), better known around here as "cedar."  We are glad that cities are beginning to dispense this excellent mulch and discouraging burning cut-down Ashe junipers. You might be interested in this previous Mr. Smarty Plants article about using the wood ash from junipers to spread on the ground. Next, we suggest you read our How-To Article Under Cover with Mulch.

This article definitely emphasizes the many advantages of a shredded mulch, but also mentions some concerns, with which we agree. For some time, there was some discussion back and forth over the possibility of overdoing the mulch. One problem is that too much mulch around the roots of the plants can shelter insects that could be chewing on that plant, and may even promote mildew, which you don't want going on, especially on your (non-native) roses.

Another problem, chlorosis, might crop up if you have too much mulch around the roots. Please read yet another previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer (we are pretty lazy and don't like saying the same thing twice). That particular article is on Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel), but the same problem could apply. Also in that previous answer is a link to a university article on the process of chlorosis, itself. We hope you will read that too.

Summing up: We like what you're doing, and we know free mulch is very tempting, but you should watch out for some of the problems we have mentioned, and maybe back off a little on the depth of the mulch.

 

From the Image Gallery


Ashe juniper
Juniperus ashei

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Smaller trees for limited space in yard in Austin
March 29, 2011 - Follow up to "I have a choice of three shade trees from the city of Austin. They are Live Oak, Elm, Cedar. Although I am happy to have a free tree, I think the choices are not the best for my home. I...
view the full question and answer

Native shrubs or ground cover for north-facing landscape in Ft. Worth
March 23, 2010 - Need native plant ideas for a landscaping bed against the house facing north. Already has 1 Beautyberry but two others died of root rot last year due to incredibly high water table in our area. Old ...
view the full question and answer

Information about growing mountain laurels (Sophora secundiflora)
November 15, 2008 - I live just outside of Austin on 10 acres. I have several very large mountain laurels on my property that I planted from containers. Mine flower profusely every year. I feed them bi-weekly and wate...
view the full question and answer

Caring for Texas Buckeye in Buda TX
February 07, 2011 - I have a Texas Buckeye that is planted in a moderate amount of shade. It is growing very slowly, and only holds on to it's leaves from late March to August. It has been in the ground for about 4-5 ye...
view the full question and answer

Is cement leaching into flower beds in Colorado Springs?
May 16, 2009 - I have posed this question to a number of garden centers in our area around Colorado Springs--only to rec. a repeated--"Gee, I don't know." When we moved to our new home there was a rock concrete ...
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