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
Not Yet Rated

Tuesday - April 09, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils
Title: Chlorosis on plants in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have several plants that have chlorosis on the new growth. I did an at-home basic soil test. Ph came out at 7.5 (the highest the scale went, so it could be higher than that). Nitrogen and phosphorus are deficient. And there's a surplus of potash. The soil has a lot of clay. What do you recommend I do to amend the soil?

ANSWER:

This is one of the reasons that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center talks so much about plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants evolved. If your plants are not native to Central Texas, they are reacting to soils to which they are not accustomed.

From a previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on chlorosis:

Yellowish leaves could indicate chlorosis, or lack of iron being taken up by the plant from the soil. This is often caused  by poor drainage and/or dense clay soil, which causes water to stand on the roots. Again, this could  be a problem caused by planting, perhaps without any organic material added to hole, or damage to the tiny rootlets that take up water and trace elements, including iron, from the soil.

Please read this article from the University of Illinois Extension on chlorosis. Note the comment that the presence of chlorosis is often due to high alkalinity in the soil. You can be pretty sure that your soil is alkaline, but plants native to this area are accustomed to that soil, and should be happy with it.

Among the steps we would recommend are to use some sort of iron supplement, not too much, as native plants do not ordinarily care for fertilizer. Water less, because it's possible the main problem is lack of drainage in soil where the plants are growing. Watering once a week should be adequate.  Finally, using a good quality organic mulch, spread the mulch over the root area without allowing it to touch the trunk area. This will protect the roots from heat and cold and, as the mulch decomposes, will add some material to the soil to assist in drainage.

From Texas A & M AgriLIFE Extension, please read this article on The Real Dirt on Austin Soils. If you would like to get a professional soil test packet, go to this site for forms and information.

 

 
 

More Soils Questions

Smarty Plants on mulch and organic material
July 20, 2005 - I live near Canyon Lake, just north of San Antonio in a new subdivision. I call on you for advice, as I have attended several classes there and hope you can help. Several areas on our property and nei...
view the full question and answer

Blackfoot daisy turning brown in Round Rock, TX
September 30, 2009 - A few days ago, our blackfoot daisy was doing wonderfully. Then we got heavy rains and suddenly the plant is sere and brown. Did the too wet weather do this, and will it come back next year?
view the full question and answer

Erosion at edge of driveway in Abilene TX
August 26, 2011 - My lawn suffered a great loss of grass over the winter and the soil at the edge of the driveway is washing away with watering and the occasional rains that we have. I am trying to get the grass to gr...
view the full question and answer

Help with composting in Katy TX
March 19, 2010 - I've gone on line and tried to figure out what I'm doing wrong with my compost pile. What exactly is the proper ratio, and the types of plant matter and layers to achieve the optimum decomposition i...
view the full question and answer

Need help growing plants in red dirt in Mount Pleasant, NC.
September 17, 2011 - I live in N.C. and I have had the hardest time getting plants to grow;I have red dirt at my house. Can you suggest a few colorful plants that would do real well in red dirt? Thank You So Very Much!!!!...
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