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
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

Yellow, pale green leaves on Cedar Elms in Texas
August 30, 2008 - I have had several cedar elms of various sizes planted in our yard over the last 10 years. Only the largest has dark green, healthy looking leaves. All the others have yellowish, pale green leaves. Th...
view the full question and answer

Growing non-native Cabernet Sauvignon vines in Central Texas
July 01, 2013 - Hi. I recently moved into a remodeled home in Taylor, TX, and have experimented with Cabernet Savignon vines before. I have a 1/2 acre and a chain-link fence I want to put vines on. (I have a book o...
view the full question and answer

Hybridized Indigo Spires having problems in Wimberley, TX
August 19, 2010 - I planted 7 Indigo Spires from one gallon containers in May and now each plant is about 18" tall. 4 of the 7 fell over about 2 weeks are. The plants still look healthy with no dropped or curled leav...
view the full question and answer

Weak stems on asters and ironweed from Woodbridge ON
June 06, 2012 - My question is in regards to plants flopping over. My smooth asters and ironweeds never seem to have strong stems. Is because the soil is too fertile or maybe too shallow?
view the full question and answer

Chlorotic Texas Mountain Laurel in Benson, Arizona
May 04, 2014 - I've planted a Texas Mountain Laurel in heavy clay soil in Arizona. It's been in place for 3 years and flowers each spring. However it's leaves are a shade of medium, yellowish green nothing like 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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center