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?

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
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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - May 22, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Xeriscapes, Soils, Erosion Control, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Problem garden strip in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Currently I live in the west half of a duplex. There is a small strip of dirt about two feet wide between the wall and the sidewalk in the backyard. It faces west, meaning it only gets sunlight during the hottest times of the day, Also there is a lot of clay on this property (clay loam) and rocks. If and when it does rain, there is some standing water from roof runoff until it all flows out across the sidewalk and down the hill (we live by a slope by a small creek). Like others, I want to find a few adult native xeriscaping plant options that can cope with those conditions without burning a hole in the bank account. I think ferns would be best but what kind? I had some kimberly ferns there but they needed a lot of watering and they sunburned during the summer. This harsh winter killed them so I figured it was time I learn from that mistake.

ANSWER:

You said you were "currently" in a duplex. If this is a rental or a residence you do not consider long-term, we suggest you make no substantial investment. In fact, you could solve several problems by growing specimen plants in pots. This would also solve your soil problems, as you could put down a layer of gravel or river rock to hold the earth, position the pots on top of the stones, and good potting soil in the pots. The sunlight situation is not optimal. There are few plants that would be happy with 2 hours of  bright glaring sun and heat, and shade the other 22 hours.

We will try to make some suggestions that will be more suitable for your problem space. You expressed a wish for a more xeric solution, so we'll start with that. There are a number of succulents that grow well in dry, hot environments and can tolerate a fair amount of shade:

Manfreda variegata (Mottled tuberose),

Manfreda sileri (Siler's tuberose),  

Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista) and

Euphorbia antisyphilitica (Candelilla).

None of them grow very large and there are no thorns, as that would be dangerous to the gardener in a small space. You could also consider other, larger succulents for pots. Most of these grow slowly and it would be a while before they got in the way of your sidewalk or threatened passers-by, by which time you might have moved to a more suitable space. Some we particularly like are:

Agave havardiana (Havard's century plant)

Opuntia ellisiana (Spineless prickly pear)

Yucca pallida (Pale-leaf yucca)

Escobaria vivipara (Spinystar)

Please read our How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants.

 

From the Image Gallery


Mottled tuberose
Manfreda variegata

Siler's tuberose
Manfreda sileri

Texas sacahuista
Nolina texana

Candelilla
Euphorbia antisyphilitica

Havard's century plant
Agave havardiana

Spineless prickly pear
Opuntia ellisiana

Pale-leaf yucca
Yucca pallida

Spinystar
Escobaria vivipara

More Soils Questions

Should I acidify my well water for native plants
July 15, 2008 - Should I acidify my well water for irrigation of native plants? There is not enough rainwater collection.
view the full question and answer

Stress in potted Tif blueberry plants
August 15, 2008 - Recently purchased Tif Blue Blueberry plants (about 3 ft tall)are showing signs of stress. They are in 10 gallon pots. Should they be transplanted? Medium? Fertilizer? Location? Trimming?
view the full question and answer

Flowers under pine trees from Elkhart Indiana
May 02, 2013 - I have a number of pine trees at the back of my lot and would like to plant flowers under the tree. What can I plant?
view the full question and answer

Failure of highbush blueberry plant to produce in New Hampshire
July 25, 2008 - One of my highbush blueberry plants completely stopped producing. What can I do to revive it?
view the full question and answer

Plants tolerant of high levels of sodium and sulfur
June 26, 2013 - I would appreciate suggestions for small shrubs and flowering plants that can survive the sodic soil conditions and western sun exposure of my front beds. We have had great difficulty finding anything...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center