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

Friday - July 25, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Plants for a Austin thicket underlayer
Answered by: Larry Larson

QUESTION:

We live in Austin, west of 183. We are planning to put a thicket in our backyard, where there is no threat of deer. Anchoring the thicket are a clump of live oaks, a Texas persimmon, an Eve's Necklace and a Texas kidneywood. We're ready for the next layer. So far, we know we want elbow bush and were thinking about American beautyberry, but realize that probably wants more water than we get. The purpose of the thicket is to attract and provide shelter for pollinators. Any suggestions about the middle layer? Thank you.

ANSWER:

Here’s the Wildflower Center record for your established plants:

Quercus fusiformis (Escarpment live oak), Diospyros texana (Texas persimmon) (10-35 ft.), Styphnolobium affine (Eve's necklace) (15-30 ft.),  Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood), ( 3-10 ft.)   All of them prefer dry soil and full sun, or at least partial shade.

and your proposed plants:

Forestiera pubescens (Stretchberry) - shrub 5-10 ft - - exists well in any soil moisture and any degree of sun or shade.
Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) - - shrub 3-6 feet - - needs partial shade and moist soil, so I think your analysis is correct. Beautyberry doesn't fit well with the characteristics of your established plants.

What would I suggest for the middle layer?  To form my suggestions, I use the “Recommended Species” lists that the Wildflower Center maintains.  This is a link to the  Texas-Central Collection
Then, on the left hand side of the screen, there are options to reduce the selection based on various characteristics.  As this is for your underlayer – I chose  sun or partial shade, and 1-3 and 3-6 feet.

For shrubs, this resulted in 18 candidates.  One has to actually read the plant record for its BENEFIT to see if it provides nesting material or pollen for pollinators.  It seems most of the low native plants are attractive to pollinators.  Here are a few of those to consider.

Shrubs:
Ageratina havanensis (Shrubby boneset)
Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame acanthus)
Chrysactinia mexicana (Damianita)
Dalea frutescens (Black dalea)
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (Turk's cap or turkscap)
Salvia greggii (Autumn sage)

And for Herbs I found 49 candidates, here are 6 of the first that have benefit for pollinators:
Aquilegia canadensis (Eastern red columbine)
Asclepias asperula (Spider milkweed)
Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed)
Chamaecrista fasciculata var. fasciculata (Partridge pea)
Conoclinium coelestinum (Blue mistflower)
Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower)

 

From the Image Gallery


Shrubby boneset
Ageratina havanensis

Flame acanthus
Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii

Damianita
Chrysactinia mexicana

Black dalea
Dalea frutescens

Turk's cap or turkscap
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Autumn sage
Salvia greggii

Eastern red columbine
Aquilegia canadensis

Antelope horns
Asclepias asperula

Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Partridge pea
Chamaecrista fasciculata var. fasciculata

Blue mistflower
Conoclinium coelestinum

Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Care for an orchid
August 31, 2008 - I have another question. How do I care for an orchard. I have had it close to a year and it hasn't grown. How much water do they take.
view the full question and answer

Soils for spiderwort from Round Rock TX
August 08, 2013 - We have spiderworts growing naturally in our backyard. We put a large circle around them them with limestone rock (as our beds have) to make their own bed as they clumped in one area. What kind of s...
view the full question and answer

Native plants suitable for rock garden in New York
March 26, 2006 - I'd like to start a rock garden. The area is very rocky, the soil is shallow and it's partially shaded. I'd like mostly perennials that flower from spring to fall. I hope to make some purchases fr...
view the full question and answer

Understory plants for Tuolumne Co., CA
May 14, 2007 - My driveway is lined with purple plum trees. I would like to grow something underneath them. What can I grow that will not harm the root system/health of the trees?
view the full question and answer

What flowers will ducks and swans not eat?
January 11, 2009 - I live by ducks and swans. They love eating my flowers. Any suggestions on what flowering plants they won't eat?
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center