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Mr. Smarty Plants - Gregg's Mistflower stressed in Fredericksburg TX

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Wednesday - August 07, 2013

From: Fredericksburg, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Soils, Transplants, Watering, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Gregg's Mistflower stressed in Fredericksburg TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My Gregg's Mist Flower plants are very stressed. The blooms have turned brown and the leaves are drooping. Plants are receiving moderate sun, partial shade. Do they need daily watering this time of year? Been watering every other day. Had them about 1 month. Please recommend if I should cut them back or..?

ANSWER:

The very first thing that occurs to us is when you say you have had your Conoclinium greggii (Gregg's mistflower) for about a month. We are assuming you purchased a plant in a pot and transplanted it into your garden in late June or early July? Even though this is not a woody plant, like shrubs and trees, we still never recommend trying to transplant plants during hot, dry weather. Roots being suddenly introduced into a soil to which they are not adapted can be lethal. This USDA Plant Profile Map shows that the only county in Texas in which this mistflower grows naturally is Hudspeth County, in far west Texas, nowhere close to Gillespie County. That doesn't mean it won't grow anywhere else in Texas, that is just the only county that has reported it to the USDA. But it gives us a clue that there might be a soil incompatability that could not have been so problematic had not the plant gone into the ground at a difficult time of the year.

If you follow the plant link above, you will see these growing conditions on our webpage:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil Description: Gravelly, calcareous soils.
Conditions Comments: Greggs Mistflower can be a good ground cover and spreads easily by roots. Often attracts very impressive numbers of Queen butterflies in the Fall."

We never are sure what "medium" water needs are, but we do think you may be watering them too much. It describes the soil moisture that the plant needs as "dry" and calls for gravelly, calcareous soils.  There is a possibility that you may have clay soils, tiny particles which absorb water and swell, excluding oxygen from around the roots. Since they are supposed to be in loose, dry soils, the roots may be drowning.

Since you can hardly go back and plant your mistflower in February or March, before they begin to bloom, we think the next best idea is to trim back some of the dead or dying material, so there is less plant area for the roots to attempt to nurture. Don't fertilize, this only stresses an already-stressed plant. Water by sticking the hose down in the soil around the roots and letting it barely drip until the dirt on the surface becomes moist, and do this only about once a week. If you still lose the plants, we would suggest contacting the Gillespie County Extension Office and request a soil test kit. If you find that you do, indeed, have clay soils and want to plant the same plants, we suggest that:

1. You do the transplanting in very early Spring.

2. Prepare the soils to provide better drainage by mixing the native soil with decomposed granite, sand or (our favorite) some compost. Any of those will help the tiny new rootlets access nutrients, oxygen and water from the soil.

3. Prepare to have butterflies.

 

From the Image Gallery


Gregg's mistflower
Conoclinium greggii

Gregg's mistflower
Conoclinium greggii

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