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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Thursday - May 28, 2015

From: Dripping Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Soils, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Failure of TX bluebonnets to thrive
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

We have had extraordinary luck with bluebonnets growing in our driveway of decomposed granite--until last year and this year. The bluebonnets seem to be drying up and wilting away. The ones in other areas around our house seem to do well - front flowerbeds, herb garden, and just about everywhere that seeds land -- except in the driveway. I was told at the Natural Gardener that bluebonnets don;t do well in decomposed granite, and that I should check with the Lady Bird Wildflower Center for confirmation. What do you think?

ANSWER:

When viewing vast fields of Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet) one feels that growing them is a pushover.  Not necessarily so.  This article from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center web page gives tips on bluebonnet culture. A key consideration is good drainage.  If bluebonnet seedlings are waterlogged for some hours a fungal disease often causes them to damp off.  Adding decomposed granite is of value mainly to improve drainage.  If you have weather records check to see if there was a long rainy spell in Autumn or Winter when the bluebonnet seeds were germinating and forming rosettes.

One way to assure good drainage is to plant the seeds on a slope.  Perhaps the beds where your bluebonnets did well were sloping or otherwise had better drainage than the driveway.  I suggest that you loosen the soil near the driveway to assure better drainage for next year.

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas bluebonnet
Lupinus texensis

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