En EspaŅol

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?


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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
1 rating

Friday - March 14, 2014

From: Brownsville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Rain Gardens, Drought Tolerant, Erosion Control
Title: Raingarden Plants for Brownsville, TX
Answered by: Larry Larson


I'm a Landscape Architect in South Texas and I'm implementing raingardens and vegetated swales in my projects. What native plants could be used in these gardens/water runways. They would need to resist both, wet soils when flooded and dry soils. I would appreciate any recommendations on trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses. Thank you very much.


Greetings;  Mr Smarty Plants sees this as a interesting challenge.  A raingarden in deep south Texas!

My normal research approach to this kind of challenge includes checking out what Mr Smarty Plants has considered before.  Here are some question/answer pairs which are close to your request either in context or in area:
Reseeding of the Laguna  Atascosa 
Native grasses for erosion control in Harlingen, TX 
Landscaping on South Padre Island 
Replacing non-native St. Augustine with native grasses in Rockport TX
Plants for erosion control in arid region 

And here are a few, from a bit farther afield, on establishing a raingarden:

Rain garden plants for Central Texas  
Managing a wet area in Austin 
Grasses for dry bottom detention ponds   [Pearland Area]  

  None of these struck me as right on, so I also reviewed likely South Texas natives for suitability for erosion control and for both the wet and dry situations you describe.  The Wildflower Center keeps lists of appropriate recommended species; this link is to that list for the South Texas Plains. I reviewed this list for natives that are well acclimated to both dry soils and ones that are wet or at least moist. There aren’t all that many so I list them here:

Grasses:  Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)Melica nitens (Three-flower melic), Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass), Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Shrubs  Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea), Cordia boissieri (Mexican olive), Prunus rivularis (Creek plum), Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac)  

Herbs [Wildflowers]: Callirhoe involucrata (Winecup)Chamaecrista fasciculata (Partridge pea)Cooperia drummondii (Evening rain lily), Geum canadense (White avens)Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian sunflower)Justicia pilosella (Gregg's tubetongue)Oenothera speciosa (Pink evening primrose)Ratibida columnifera (Mexican hat)Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan), Ruellia nudiflora (Violet ruellia)Rubus trivialis (Dewberry)Salvia coccinea (Scarlet sage)Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod)Verbesina virginica (Frostweed)Wedelia texana (Zexmenia)

Trees :  Ptelea trifoliata (Wafer ash)  (good for wet soils also],  Cordia boissieri (Mexican olive)Cornus drummondii (Roughleaf dogwood)Morus rubra (Red mulberry)Parkinsonia aculeata (Retama)

  For erosion control, we recommend grasses and shrubs with extended root systems that can hold the soil against the water action.  I did not sort the above list for this, but a bit of study of the plants will reveal these characteristics. For instance, If you review the grasses, note that three of them will form clumps, which is good for erosion.  The melica nitens is less likely to be usefull for this application.


From the Image Gallery

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Mexican olive
Cordia boissieri

Panicum virgatum

Callirhoe involucrata

Mexican hat
Ratibida columnifera

Scarlet sage
Salvia coccinea

Roughleaf dogwood
Cornus drummondii

Wafer ash
Ptelea trifoliata

Parkinsonia aculeata

More Rain Gardens Questions

Native Texas plants for rain gardens
March 07, 2007 - I am looking for native Texas plants that would do well in very shady and partial shade rain gardens. Do you have any suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Plants for freestanding water in Oklahoma
July 28, 2013 - I have an overflowing gutter and the ground below becomes a muddy hole. I'd like to put a basin or pot in/or above the ground with a rain chain. Are there any plants--shrubs or otherwise that flouris...
view the full question and answer

Native plants beneficial to wildlife in Cincinnati, OH
April 25, 2008 - I live in Cincinnati, Ohio and I am looking for native plants to plant in a small area of trees behind my house. I would like the plants to be beneficial for wildlife, like maybe some wildflowers. T...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a wet area in Ohio
March 30, 2010 - I have a lot of water in my front yard are there any kind of plants that I can plant to drink up some of the water? I live in North East Ohio
view the full question and answer

Expanding clay soils near rain garden
May 11, 2009 - I want to put a rain garden in my yard in central TX (Kyle). My subdivision architectural review committee expressed concerns about the expansive clay soils becoming saturated and possibly shortening...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center