Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Suppport 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
1 rating

Wednesday - December 26, 2012

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Diseases and Disorders, Shrubs
Title: Mountain Laurel slowly dying in San Antonio, TX
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

My Texas Mountain Laurel seems to be dying in a slow unusual manner. Over the past two weeks the leaves have been turning yellow and falling off starting with the south facing side of my multi-trunk tree and moving to the north facing side. Leaves from all trunks seem to be falling off. About 1/3 to 1/2 of the tree has shed it's leaves. What's more unusual is the newest leaves that grew this past spring seem to be unaffected (so far). But since the tree was heavily attacked last spring by worms, there wasn't much new growth I could save by the time I treated the worms with two separate rounds of BT and Spinosad. Therefore each of the barren branches have only a few inches of green leaves still on them, right at the tips. This tree was transplanted 7 years ago and has done tremendously well (doubling in size to around 12 ft high) until last year when it was attacked by the caterpillars and one of it's trunks died for no apparent reason. It was planted by Millbergers nursery in a raised bed that is also on a slope of a hill so I truly don't believe drainage is an issue. It was on a drip system until the first trunk died and I removed it's emitters in fear that it might have been getting overwatered, while still taking care to make sure it was getting occasional water. No pesticides or roundup of any type has been used near it as well. I also lightly fertilized it this summer with Medina organic granular fertilizer. I can't find anything describing a Texas Mountain Laurel dying in this slow type manner from left to right while keeping (for now) it's newest growth. There are multiple Mountain Laurels in other yards all around me that are doing fine. Obviously the tree is in extreme stress, but my question is do you have any other ideas of what I can possibly do to save what's left of my beautiful tree? Thank you!

ANSWER:


Texas Mountain Laurel Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel) is often described as being relatively disease and pest free, however it can be attacked by the Genista caterpillar , sometimes referred to as Sophora worms. These two links describe the caterpillars and suggests management  options.

Another common comment about Sophora is that it doesn’t transplant well. You apparently had a six foot sapling transplanted seven years ago, and has so far done well until last year. A question for you to consider is what changed in the plant’s environment at this time? One red flag is your mention of drip irrigation. Sophora is very particular about having its feet wet. Also, fertilizing plants in stress is something we recommend against.

Although the plant was transplanted seven years ago, the symptoms sort of sound like transplant shock. This link  explains causes and remedies for this malady. This answer to a previous  question about a similar situation also has some good advice. The directional nature of your plant’s demise might be explained by the the fact that the south-facing side of the plant is generally getting  more intense sunlight during the day than the north-facing side.  

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

More Shrubs Questions

Can animals eat bottlebrush buckeye without being poisoned?
June 13, 2013 - Can deer, bear and wild turkey and squirrels eat the nuts and leaves from the bottlebrush buckeye shrub without being posioned by it.
view the full question and answer

Plant identification shrub with lavender flowers
August 28, 2009 - Looking for picture of flowering shrub,looks like a butterfly,two shades of lavender, don't know the name.
view the full question and answer

Growing Sophora gypsophila from seed
April 23, 2008 - Sophora gypsophila B.L. Turner & Powell Do you have any information on growing this small tree from seed? I have a few seeds and would like to try. What conditions break seed dormancy? I have grown ...
view the full question and answer

Hummingbird Bushes for Broken Arrow OK
August 27, 2014 - I am looking for bushes that attract hummingbirds. I live in Broken Arrow, OK. Can you recommend some?
view the full question and answer

Blocking out noise from pond pump in Holly MI
April 02, 2010 - My neighbor has a motor for his pond pump that faces my backyard--it is extremely loud and irritating after listening to it for 5 hours or more. Is there any type of shrub that I can plant to block o...
view the full question and answer

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