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
Not Yet Rated

Saturday - May 30, 2009

From: Campbellton, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Pests, Watering
Title: Problems with tomatoes in tubs in Campbellton, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have my tomatoes planted in big black plastic tubs, they are starting to wilt and dry up. I have put Sevin dust on them for bugs. I haven't been over watering. Could you please tell me why they are dying?

ANSWER:

Lycopersicon esculentum, tomato, is native to South America, a member of the Solanaceae, or Nightshade, family. Since its early cultivation by prehistoric natives of South America, it has moved northward through Mexico and is one of the most hybridized of all plants. Both of these facts remove them from our area of expertise. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the care and propagation of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown. Although the tomato plant is out of our field, we would like to mention that planting anything in the summer in Texas in black plastic is dangerous, in terms of the soil heating. That black plastic really conducts the heat into the soil, and plants are accustomed to being grown in soil kept cool by the insulation of all the earth around it and sun only hitting the surface. That's just a thought, we have no expert proof, but we know we have fried plants we left in the black plastic from the nursery in the sun. 

For some help from some experts who actually know what they're talking about, read this website from Cornell University Horticulture by Stephen Reiners, Ten Mistakes to Avoid When Growing Tomatoes.  Another good article is from Northern Gardening.com Growing Healthy Tomatoes by Terry L. Hockey.  In terms of spraying the Sevin on the plants, have you seen and identified any bugs on your tomatoes? Read this article from Living With Bugs.com Sevin (Carbaryl) Insecticide.  Before you fix something, find out what the problem is. 

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Does NPIN include non-native plant species?
September 03, 2009 - I'm writing a book on the plants eaten by 12th century Indians of Florida. I'd like to use your site for some of my research. You say all of your plants are native, but then under some listings (wil...
view the full question and answer

Care for non-native bougainvillea in Blackfoot, ID
June 29, 2009 - Can I plant Bougainvillea in Blackfoot, ID? I would like to plant it but am concerned about the harsh winter killing it off.
view the full question and answer

Problems with non-native Ixora
April 22, 2009 - I have 3 Ixoras I planted last summer and they did beautifully -- then Ike visted us. All the other plants in that garden have recovered and look beautiful, but the ixoras still look ill. No new gro...
view the full question and answer

When and how to prune lavender (Lavandula sp.)
March 20, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants I have a Goodwin Creek Lavender plant that I planted last year. It did very well but my question is about pruining. It seems that there is some growth coming up now that it...
view the full question and answer

How to tell the difference between native and non-native thistles
March 13, 2013 - It's thistle time already. There are many plants in the aster family with thistle in their common name. Are "real" thistles only those in the genus Cirsium, or are there others as well? We are tryi...
view the full question and answer

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