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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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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!

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Saturday - April 29, 2006

From: El Paso, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Transplants
Title: Transplanting of non-native Vitex
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I live in El Paso and have a fifteen year old vitex tree planted too close to a mesquite tree in my backyard. As a result of this, the vitex has failed to thrive. My question is this: can I replant the vitex to another spot without killing it? If so, when is the best time to do this. Thank you.

ANSWER:

Vitex or Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) is a non-native species introduced to North America from China and India. Since our focus and expertise is in plants native to North America, it is really not in our purview. We can, however, point you to some general advice about transplanting trees. The USDA has a very good article about transplanting trees. Fall and spring are the best times for transplanting. The hole to put it in needs to be big enough—essentially, twice the width and slightly less than twice the depth of the root ball. Pruning the top growth by 1/3 and, if possible, root-pruning a few months ahead of time will improve your possibility of success. Also, root stimulator is sometimes useful.

You might also consider a native alternative to your vitex tree. There is always the possibility that non-native plants will escape from cultivation and become invasive. Texas A&M and the Texas Forest Service have an excellent online Texas Tree Planting Guide that gives you choice options for several criteria (e.g., your county, size of the tree, type of soil, etc.) for selecting a tree to plant.

 

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