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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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Tuesday - May 13, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Need a native, evergreen shrub to replace Pittosporum in Austin, TX
Answered by: Jimmy Mills


We've had a PITTOSPORUM for years as a foundation planting on the southwest corner of our central Austin home. Now that it's gone, I would like to replace with a native, non-invasive shrub. What are your suggestions? It'll be next to an abelia.


Let me start by  stating the mission of the Ladybird Johnson Wild Flower Center:
The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes.

What this means is that native plants are what Mr. Smarty Plants is all about. Neither Pittosporum nor Abelia fit that category. This How To Article explains our penchant for native plants.

Moving on, I want to show you how to use our Native Plants Database .  Click on Recommended Species at the bottom of the list under Native Plants to the left of the page. Now click on Central Texas on the map. This will bring up a list of 157 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in Central Texas. This is too many plants for now, so go down the page to the Combination Search box and make the following selections:  select Texas under State, shrub under Habit, and perennial under Lifespan. Check part shade under Light Requirement, moist under Soil Moisture, 12 - 16 under Height, and evergreen under Leaf Retention. Click the Narrow your search button and your list shrinks to six plants. Clicking on the Scientific name  of each plant will bring up its NPIN page which contains a description of the plant along with its growth characteristics and requirements, and in most cases images.

Here are three possibilities from the list.

Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon)

Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle)

Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain laurel)

This answer to a previous question also provides some suggestions.


From the Image Gallery

Ilex vomitoria

Wax myrtle
Morella cerifera

Texas mountain laurel
Sophora secundiflora

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