En Español

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

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

Sunday - May 04, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Xeriscapes, Planting, Trees
Title: Appropriate use of redbud from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I am considering purchasing a hearts of gold redbud; I am also xeriscaping my front yard. I live in Austin,TX. Will this tree do ok in full Tx sun (8+ hours) with once a week watering? If this tree is not optimal, can you suggest similar flowering trees that will handle these conditions better.


This USDA Plant Profile Map shows that Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) grows natively in Travis County, so of course we would consider that optimal.

However, from this Plant Finder from Missouri Botanical Garden, we learn that there is a Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud) which has a trade name of 'Hearts of Gold." Again going to the USDA Plant Profile Map, this time on Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud),  it still grows natively in Travis County, so you're okay on that point.

Follow this plant link, Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud), to our webpage on that plant, where you will find these Growing Conditions:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Part Shade , Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Soil Description: Moist, fertile, well-drained soils."

So, first, you need to determine if you have a good shade (2 hours or less of sun a day) or part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun) to put your new plant. But the most important thing is not where but when to plant a woody plant. That 8+ hours you cite is probably going to fry a new little plant. We strongly recommend that in hot, dry Central Texas woody plants (shrubs and trees) be planted in cool weather, preferably December and January. We suggest that before you spend that money on a likely-doomed tree, you rethink your plans. We could suggest some trees native to this area that can take the full sun, but we still don't recommend planting them now. For instance, here are the Growing Conditions for Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas:

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low , Medium
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
Soil pH: Alkaline (pH>7.2)
CaCO3 Tolerance: Low
Drought Tolerance: Medium , High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained, calcareous, rocky, sandy, loamy, or clay soils, usually limestone-based.
Conditions Comments: Drought- and cold-tolerant within its range. Give dappled shade when young. A selection called Sanderson is said to be the most drought-adapted Texas redbud cultivar."

So, that would do fine, but NOT IF YOU PLANT IT NOW. And don't buy one to save and plant in late Fall. Those black plastic nursery pots are not designed for survival of the resident plants. Wait until the right time of year, and then buy a good, fresh plant and be sure to insist that the roots be pulled out of the can beforehand, so you can make sure they are not pot-bound, with roots circling inside.


From the Image Gallery

Texas redbud
Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Texas redbud
Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

More Trees Questions

Replacement for shade grass in El Paso TX
April 05, 2013 - We currently have a Honey Mesquite tree with thinning bermuda grass underneath in our front yard. I suspect that the filtered shade is killing the bermuda. I was thinking of planting Buffalo Grass, or...
view the full question and answer

Determining gender of Texas Hill Country native trees
August 22, 2006 - How can I identify which (Tx Hill Country) native trees are separate male & female? Specifically Tx Pistache and American Smoke Tree. Do I have to wait until they flower and inspect the flower for c...
view the full question and answer

Replacement for black walnut near septic tank
March 10, 2009 - We have a black walnut tree growing on the sunny side of our house which provides wonderful shade in the summer but it is such a dirty tree. The leaves drop very early as well as small branches and t...
view the full question and answer

Looking for non-native Chinese Pistache tree
April 23, 2015 - Where in the Austin area would be a good place to find a nice sized Chinese Pistache to plant in my yard?
view the full question and answer

Trees for creek side in Illinois
July 04, 2008 - I have a creek that runs along my back yard, and was wondering if you could give me some suggestions on water loving trees to grow next to it. The creek gets sun all day and is located in zone 5. (so...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center