En Espa—ol

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
7 ratings

Wednesday - September 26, 2007

From: Round Rock, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seeds and Seeding, Wildflowers
Title: Locating red clay for wildflower seed balls
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am trying to locate a local source for the Powdered Red Clay spoke about in making wildflower seed balls. I live in Round Rock, Texas and have called many local nursery and no one knows what I am talking about.

ANSWER:

Without totally intending to be flip, we sometimes think that plant experts try to be too, well, expert. Frankly, we're pretty sure that the "Powdered Red Clay" referred to in our How To Article on "Making Seedballs" is what is commonly known as "dirt". We really did try to find where "Powdered Red Clay" occurred naturally and it proved a little difficult. You can find all sorts of soil maps, but there are so many different types of soil in Texas, even in a small area like Williamson County, and many of them side by side.

So, let's see if we can figure out how to come up with a proper ingredient for Powdered Red Clay seedballs. Soil is usually compounded of three different sized particles. The largest particles are sand, through which water flows very readily. The next is silt, and finally, the smallest particles are clay. The clay particles are so small and cling together so tightly that there are not enough porous spaces between to permit water to travel through it. Test some dirt in your own area-not fill or compost brought in, but just the native dirt. Get a little of it wet, scoop up a fistful (isn't scientific investigation fun?) and squeeze. If it sticks together in a glob, rather than just collapsing and sliding away, you've got clay. In this area, it's probably red clay, but we don't think that makes a whole lot of difference. The main thing is, it sticks together, so you can get seeds into it and a ball made out of it. The article referenced above gives pretty specific instructions about what soils you need and how to make them, and also mentions that if you're really concerned about getting red clay soil specifically that you can order a terry cotta clay from ceramic supply houses. It also cautions that there should be some sand in the mix. Again, in this part of Central Texas, I think you'd be hard pressed to dig your hand in some natural dirt and not find a good mix of clay and sand. After all, that's what our wildflowers are growing in now, right?

 

More Seeds and Seeding Questions

Propagation of Chandler's craglily from San Marcos TX
December 16, 2012 - Can you please advise me on collecting and propagating seed from Chandlerís craglily -Echeandia chandleri. I have 2 plants that came from the wildflower center. They never seem to multiply, but they d...
view the full question and answer

Wildflower seeds that do well in black clay soil from Plano TX
November 21, 2013 - What native wildflower seeds do best in black clay soil? We live in Plano along creek w/ 8,000 sq. ft. in full sun. No manmade water source. Suggestions?
view the full question and answer

Planting bluebonnets
April 20, 2008 - How long do bluebonnet seeds take to mature, and when is the earliest in their development they can be harvested? When can they be scattered?
view the full question and answer

Lack of Fruit on Forestiera
March 17, 2013 - I have not been able to get berry production on my elbow bush. I have male and female plants. Is it possible to help with the pollination process? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Timing for mowing wildflower meadow
August 29, 2013 - Last spring (2012) we planted a wildflower/shortgrass meadow on a caliche slope surrounding the back of our house. We terraced with rocks and spread some topsoil thinly before sowing the seed. It di...
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