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
1 rating

Thursday - April 18, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Soils, Watering, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Death of Texas Betony and Blackfoot Daisy from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have one small area that there are two plants - Texas Betony and Blackfoot Daisy withered and died eventually. Same kinds of plants are doing fine close by. It is my front yard close to walk way.I want to find out the cause of the death.

ANSWER:

Both Stachys coccinea (Scarlet betony) and Melampodium leucanthum (Blackfoot daisy) are native to the Austin area. That is usually the first thing we want to know about a plant, because that is an indicator that the plant can survive in the climate, soils and rainfall where the plant is growing. We have a couple questions for you to ask yourself in order to figure out what might have singled out those plants for destruction.

1.  When you say "same kinds" of plants were in the nearby area, did you mean actually Texas  (or Scarlet) Betony and Blackfoot Daisy or just other plants similar in size? If you follow the plant link above you will see that both those plants like part shade, which we characterize as 2 to 6 hours of sun a day. If they both were in full sun (6 hours or more of sun a day) they may quite literally have burned up.

2.  Are they both planted in soil with good drainage? There is a great deal of clay soil (and rock, of course) in Austin soils. Digging a little hole and sticking a baby plant into it is not good. Even native plants need to catch a break in the soil they try to grow in. A mix of compost and even some decomposed granite in clay soil will permit drainage away from the roots of water from sprinklers. Clay is composed of very small particles and when water goes into it, it stays there. Roots can quite literally drown. So, if you were counteracting the fact that the plants were in too much sun by giving them too much water in undrained soil, you can toss a coin as to which way they died.

3. Neither of the above may be the true reason. If herbicides have been sprayed, for instance to kill broadleaf weeds in a lawn, it can easily drift over and kill broadleaf plants in your flower bed. If the plants had very recently come from a nursery, they may have been sick or damaged when you bought them. If a taproot has been broken in the planting, the plant might do all right for a while, but eventually needs that tap root to get down and get more nutrients and water for the plant. There is even a possibility that those two plants were in some way out of the field of sprinklers and simply were not getting any water, because we sure haven't been getting it from the sky!

Summary: Think about a plant before you even buy it-does it like your soils, how much water does it need, how much sun? If you cannot satisfy those simple criteria, don't buy the plant.

 

From the Image Gallery


Scarlet betony
Stachys coccinea

Blackfoot daisy
Melampodium leucanthum

More Soils Questions

What hydrangeas can be grown in Austin?
June 02, 2011 - I was told that oak leaf hydrangea was the only hydrangea variety that could be successfully grown in Austin TX. My oakleaf hydrangea is doing great and I would like to plant other varieties. Can you...
view the full question and answer

Improperly prepared building site in Virginia
June 24, 2008 - Hi, I have a question about planting on newly-built homesite. We just moved into a new home in DC suburbs (Northern VA) and the landscape is the worst of the builder grade. There are prickly junipers ...
view the full question and answer

Vine for full sun in Las Vegas NV
July 05, 2013 - Looking for vine to thrive in full sun in Las Vegas, NV. I tried Cape Honeysuckle and Star Jasmine and both died within 5 days. The leaves were burnt. What's your suggestion? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Problem With Vegetable Garden Soil
June 09, 2013 - We live in Liberty Hill on 25 acres and we are working to restore native grasses and plants. We are ardent supporters of the Wildflower center. I say this because my question is not "typical" of wh...
view the full question and answer

Turf grasses and alternatives for NH
October 23, 2010 - I live in Hancock, NH, just north of Peterborough. We just bought a relatively new house that pretty-much has no lawn and minimal landscaping. Can you (or anyone) suggest native lawn grass alternati...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center