Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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?


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

Thursday - November 06, 2014

From: Roswell, NM
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Texas Redbud Suddenly Died in NM
Answered by: Anne Van Nest


We had a Texas redbud, approximately 5 1/2 years old. It had been doing great then all of a sudden after it bloomed this spring, the leaves appeared but then shriveled right away. We noticed the trunk had a very large split. We didn't have any high winds nor a cold winter. We are wondering if it was getting too much water? Trying to figure out why it died. It was east facing, in a small area surround by Vinca minor/ivy that gets watered with the lawn on an irrigation system. Any suggestions on a replacement tree? Purple leaf plum.


So sorry that your Texas redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis) didn’t make it.  The Native Plant Database on the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center says the following about the Texas redbuds. The redbuds of eastern North America have long been popular for their pink-purple early spring flowers that appear on bare wood before the leaves emerge. Texas redbud is the appropriate variety to use if you live on limestone soils from southern Oklahoma through central Texas to northeastern Mexico. It is drought-tolerant within its range, prefers dappled shade but is also found in full sun, and can do well even on relatively thin soils. Its glossy, rounded leaves bring welcome shade and its flowers attract pollinators.

Texas redbuds do like well-drained, calcareous, rocky, sandy, loamy, or clay soils, usually limestone-based. It is drought- and cold-tolerant within its range. Give it dappled shade when young. A selection called Sanderson is said to be the most drought-adapted Texas redbud cultivar.

The USDA Forest Service does include a few challenges for Texas redbuds on their website.

They note the following: the bark is thin and easily damaged from mechanical impact; susceptible to breakage either at the crotch due to poor collar formation, or the wood itself is weak and tends to break; susceptible to verticillium wilt.

Texas redbud should be grown in full sun or partial shade on moist, well-drained soil. It is highly drought tolerant once established and grows well in all areas within its hardiness range.

Canker is the biggest problem with Redbud. The fungus enters through wounds or dead and dying branches. Dieback begins as a canker on a branch. The cankers, at first small and sunken, enlarge to girdle the branch. Bark in the canker turns black and a crack forms between diseased and healthy bark. Once girdled, the part of the stem beyond the canker wilts and dies. There is no chemical control. Prune out diseased branches.

Leaf spots can be a problem during wet weather. Since the disease is rarely serious, no chemical controls are suggested.

Verticillium wilt attacks and kills Redbud. Fertilize affected trees and prune out wilted branches.


The Missouri Botanical Garden has a good article on verticillium wilt on their website which says that verticillium wilt is a fungal disease of over 300 host plants, including a wide range of garden and greenhouse crops in addition to woody ornamentals, most noticeably elms, magnolias, maples, redbud, and viburnums.  

Verticillium wilt is a fungal disease of over 300 host plants, including a wide range of garden and greenhouse crops in addition to woody ornamentals, most noticeably elms, magnolias, maples, redbud, and viburnums. (See following list for a more complete list of susceptible plants.) Caused by the soil-borne pathogens Verticillium dahliae and V. albo-atrum, these wilts are prevalent throughout the tropical and temperate regions of the world. They exist in the soil primarily as mycelia that infect belowground plant tissue. High summer temperatures tend to halt development of the disease. Groups of plants resistant to verticillium wilt include gymnosperms, monocots, members of the rose family, oaks, dogwoods, willows, rhododendrons, azaleas and others.

Symptoms of verticillium wilt vary somewhat in different host species and also within species due to varying environmental conditions. These might include sudden wilting of small branches, yellowing of foliage, stunting of growth and premature defoliation. Sapwood of infected branches typically has olive-green to black streaks. Vascular tissue appears as a dark ring in cross sections or pin-point dark spots. The initial symptoms may occur on only one branch or may involve the entire plant. Oddly, following the initial symptoms, there may be no sign of the disease for several years, even though the infection continues to reduce plant vigor.

Verticillium species are opportunistic fungi that persist in the soil as saprophytes. Infection begins in the root area where the resting hyphae of Verticillium germinate and penetrate feeder roots. The fungus also can enter wounds in the root area. The disease spreads within the plant by mycelium or spores called microconidea that travel in xylem vessels to other parts of the plant.  Water flow is restricted and the plant wilts. The entire plant may die quickly or may die section by section over many years.

The recommendation is to plant verticillium wilt resistant or tolerant species. There is a list of susceptible plants to avoid as well as resistant or immune ones on the Missouri Botanical Garden website.  Purpleleaf plum (Prunus sp.) is not recommended if verticillium wilt has been an issue in the past.




From the Image Gallery

Texas redbud
Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Texas redbud
Cercis canadensis var. texensis

More Trees Questions

Note on pond over oak roots from Round Rock TX
December 23, 2012 - Thanks very much to Barbara for answering my question about the live oaks - covering parts of their root systems with a pond. Your answer inspired discussion, and we changed our pond plan and moved th...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping in Bertram TX
September 25, 2009 - I have a landscaping job in Bertram, Texas and am looking for all my options as far as full and partial shade somewhat hardy plants. I'm mainly looking for small plants and pretty flowers I can do wi...
view the full question and answer

Secretions of fluid from crepe myrtles
June 09, 2008 - On my crepe myrtle tree I have dozens of 1/2-inch-long narrow bugs that seem to secrete tiny drops of fluid. They appear on the branches of the tree. Are these harmful to the tree? Do I need to do ...
view the full question and answer

Using cedar chips as mulch in Wimberley, TX
August 19, 2010 - In TX Hlll Country there is an abundance of wood chips, usually "cedar", which I have used as plant mulch. Since wood chips extract nitrogen to decay, do you consider chips a poor choice as plant m...
view the full question and answer

Is December a good time to prune oaks in Central Texas?
December 29, 2010 - Given that we haven't had much cold weather here in central Texas (Wimberley) this season, is it a good time to trim live and Spanish oak trees (damaged limbs and low hanging branches and suckers)? ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.