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?

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

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
5 ratings

Sunday - March 30, 2008

From: SAN ANTONIO, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Pruning, Soils, Shrubs
Title: Non-blooming Texas Mountain Laurel
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Two questions: 1. My mountain laurel (10 yrs old) has never had blooms. Is this a gender plant issue? 2. I have been seeking a groundcover that grows in shade and will take foot (dog) traffic. Ideas?

ANSWER:

All the information we can find on Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) says that it is a very slow grower and a "problematic" bloomer. First of all, it is not a gender issue. The flowers of the mountain laurel are hermaphrodite, having both male and female flowers, and are pollinated by insects. The flowers attract both butterflies and bees, so you wouldn't think the problem would be a shortage of pollinators, but you have to have flowers to pollinate! So, let's look at the cultural practices. At ten years, if the plant itself is prospering, it should be blooming, problematic or not. Although a lot of the information says it will grow in part shade, it will definitely bloom better if it is in full sun. Obviously, with a plant that size, you're not going to be moving it into a sunnier spot, but perhaps there are shrubs or trees around it that could be trimmed back to provide more sunlight. Second, don't fertilize it, especially not with nitrogen-high fertilizer, such as lawn fertilizers. The plant is a legume, and has an internal mechanism that permits it to fix nitrogen in the soil, some of which it uses itself, and some of which can be used by other plants. Many plants are adversely affected in terms of blooms when they are over-treated with nitrogen. Yet another suggestion is that it be pruned. Your plant is already past the bloom period in this part of the country. The mountain laurel produces flowers only on one-year-old wood. Pruning now, getting out weak branches, trimming off long, thin stems, and general cleanup should propel it into blooming on that new wood that will sprout after the trimming. And, remember, when you DO get blooms (as we hope you will) the seeds are extremely poisonous and should be kept from access by children and pets.

On your second question, we have three suggestions for low-growing groundcover that will grow in part shade. Remember, even very sturdy, invasive non-native lawngrasses like St. Augusting and Bermuda can get trails beaten into them by dogs making their persistent rounds, but if the dog is just crossing the area now and again, these should all be fine.

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit)

Dichondra argentea (silver ponysfoot)

Hydrocotyle bonariensis (largeleaf pennywort)


Sophora secundiflora

Phyla nodiflora

Dichondra argentea

Hydrocotyle bonariensis

 

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Erosion Control for Salem IN
September 02, 2014 - We've recently had a new pond dug. It is on a hill side and has some very steep and tall banks. We were advised that our best chance of keeping soil from eroding was to plant fescue. I'm not thrille...
view the full question and answer

Yellow-blossomed Shrub that Occurs in Arizona and Texas
May 08, 2012 - What is the name of the large shrubs you will see in Arizona with the bright yellow blossoms. They grow wild everywhere, and I also see them in the town. Could you please tell me the name of them, s...
view the full question and answer

Trimming dead blooms from turkscap in San Antonio
July 10, 2009 - Great answer to the Turk's Plant question. But, I can't seem to find an answer to mine. I've had Turk's plants for years and cut them back as you suggest, but have always been confused about wha...
view the full question and answer

Texas Sage in Indiana
September 14, 2005 - I was living in Texas and now I have moved to Indiana. I would love to have some Texas Sage here. is it possible?
view the full question and answer

Privacy screen for Pace Florida
March 10, 2014 - We live in the Florida panhandle and I wondering what we could use as a natural fence line between our property and the neighbor's. I love the look of oleander, but upon research found it to be toxic...
view the full question and answer

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