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 16, 2009

From: Kerens, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Transplants, Watering, Trees
Title: Desert willows not doing well in Navarro County, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Planted 3 new desert willows , 3-4 ft.in February. Live in East Navarro County and soil is clay with slight slope to Richland Chambers lake area. Had a wet spring. These plantings appear not doing well, with limited green appearing and half of sprouts have turned brown and died. How do we determine if there is adequate drainage? Two year old planting 30 feet away is doing great.

ANSWER:

Someone once asked us if you could grow a desert willow in East Texas. We said we didn't think you should try anything with "desert" in its name in East Texas. However, you say you have one that has been in the ground 2 years that is doing well. So, there must be some other reason for the problem.

First of all, you just planted these trees in February. They could be suffering from transplant shock. If you transplanted them directly from another location there might have been some root damage involved. If they were purchased in a pot and planted, the plant may have been rootbound, with the roots going round and round and not able to get out into the new soil for nutrition. In that case, we would ordinarily recommend that you clip some of those circling roots to force the roots to grow some new hair-like rootlets that actually serve to absorb water and nutrients from the soil, but that needs to be done before the tree is planted.

However, we feel you are probably correct in that you had an unusually wet spring, you have clay soil, and this is likely affecting drainage. The Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) will grow in clay or sandy soil; its native habitat is ditches, ravines, stream and river banks, where it is important in erosion control. To check the drainage in the immediate area, dig a hole a few inches deep and fill it with water. If the water is still standing 30 minutes later, your drainage is not good. Try to get as much organic material as you can in and around the roots of the desert willows, without disturbing the roots themselves any more than necessary. This plant is more comfortable in the alkaline soils of West Texas than the acid soils of East Texas. Use a shredded hardwood bark for the compost and for mulch on top of the soil. As these decompose, they will improve the drainage and make the nutrients in the soil more accessible to the roots. As for the transplant shock, trim off 1/4 to 1/3 of the upper growth, as well as the dead material, and keep the tree well watered, but without allowing water to stand on the roots. If it is raining, don't water. And don't fertilize at this point; a tree in transplant shock is a tree in stress, and you never want to fertilize a stressed plant. 


Chilopsis linearis

Chilopsis linearis

Chilopsis linearis

Chilopsis linearis

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Trouble with live oak in McKinney, TX
June 13, 2013 - We moved into a suburban home with a live oak tree with a trunk diameter of about 50". I noticed recently how yellow the leaves look compared to the other live oak in the yard. There is not a pattern...
view the full question and answer

Insect attack on bur oak (Quercus macrocarpa)
May 30, 2008 - Something is attacking the bur oak that was planted in 2007. Insects are not on the leaves, but the edges of some leaves look chewed back. Others look brown around the edges. Do you have any idea w...
view the full question and answer

Does Helasia diptera absorb toxic substances from Dover Plains NY
March 09, 2012 - Dear Mr. Plants, Halesia carolina is described as absorbing toxic substances: herbicides, pesticides and pollutants from water, air and soil. Does Halesia diptera do the same? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Leaf fall from Cedar Elm planted in clay
August 17, 2008 - I saw the answer to leaves falling off a cedar elm planted in clay. However I planted a Cedar Elm in my back yard. I dug a hole in the grass then planted and put grass back on top. I water every other...
view the full question and answer

Trees failing to prosper from Denham Spring LA
December 23, 2013 - I live in Louisiana. Out of all of the native trees that we grow, there are two in particular that always struggle no matter what the conditions are in which they grow. The first one, sassafras, is ...
view the full question and answer

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