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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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Wednesday - July 22, 2015

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Problem Plants, Trees
Title: Why is my Texas mountain laurel growing so slowly?
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

I have a Mountain Laurel, Anacacho Orchid Tree and Desert Willow on the northern side of our yard - all three get full sun most of the day. The Mountain Laurel is closer to the east side. The other two trees planted in 2012 have doubled in height and are well above 10 feet tall. The mountain laurel looks like it has grown maybe 2 inches. What am I doing wrong? Does it need fertilizer (I haven't amended the soil since planting) or less/more water (weekly sprinkler per water restrictions and occasional hand watering during really hot days). It always has shoots growing from the base - flowered this year for the very first time (had two little purple blooms).

ANSWER:

I'm betting that your slow-growing tree is a Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel).  if so, relax.  You are probably not doing anything wrong.  TX mountain laurel naturally grows very slowly for the first few years.  Perhaps because it is busy sending a large taproot deep into the soil.  As this web site indicates, there will ultimately be a noticable growth spurt one spring, and the tree will continue growing in subsequent years.  It is well worth waiting for.

 

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