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?

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 Shrubs Questions

Planting non-native sago palm and philodendron from Pflugerville TX
September 15, 2012 - I have a small/young sago palm and philodendron I'd like to plant. Do you advise to plant them now with fall/winter approaching or wait until next spring.
view the full question and answer

Non-native invasive Siebold viburnum from Isleboro ME
June 17, 2012 - I was given several small Siebold Viburnum for planting on my Maine property. Even though it is often for sale in nurseries, I'm aware it is listed as invasive in several eastern states. Shouldn't I...
view the full question and answer

Leaf loss on Cenizo in Bertram TX
November 17, 2009 - I need help with a purple sage (Leucophyllum frutescens) problem. Most of one of my plants started having paler, more greyish leaves, then the leaves began to fall off. It seemed to still look healthy...
view the full question and answer

Is Sabal minor juglone tolerant?
October 13, 2014 - Is Sabal minor or any other small and shade tolerant palm juglone tolerant? I’d like to plant one in an area near a pecan tree but I am not sure if they will play well together.
view the full question and answer

Evergreen flowering shrub for North Augusta GA
July 12, 2009 - I need suggestions for shade-loving evergreen flowering bush that will grow 6 feet or so, besides azaleas.
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