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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 - October 23, 2007

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: School wildflower, native plant garden
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am helping my daughter's third grade class plant a very small (about 5 ft. square) wildflower/native plant bed that is in full sun. I'm interested in flowering plants that bloom in the very early spring and not so interested in those that will be blooming during summer vacation. What would you suggest for the most impact? Thanks!

ANSWER:

That's a pretty small space, but you can have "specimen" plants that look good in the spring and can get along with minimum care in the summer, when the young gardeners are away. If you are thinking mostly of flowering plants, there are several Texas natives that flower in early to mid-spring. You could also put in some low grasses that will add texture and interest to the space without showy blooms.

First, go to our How To Articles for articles on the issues you wish to address, even though you are working on a very small scale. Next, just for fun, go to the Plant Database and scroll down to the "Combination Search." Click on Texas (for the state), herb (for habit), and bloom times of March, April and May. Okay, too much information, that gave me 729 possibilities, but you get the idea of how to narrow your search for specific plants. Next, let's try the Propagation Database. Each of these gives specific instructions on how to plant certain Texas wildflowers.

I chose several to look at, but some bloomed later in the summer than you specified. All of the following are native to Texas, grow well in our area, and bloom March to May. Castilleja indivisa (entireleaf Indian paintbrush), Lupinus texensis (Texas bluebonnet), Oenothera speciosa (pinkladies), Phlox drummondii (annual phlox). Since these need to be planted from seed, you need to get going on it as soon as possible, no later than the middle of November. Please note in the articles on these plants in the Propagation Database the types of preparation that are necessary for these seeds. These are all annuals but if left undisturbed might reseed for next year.

If you also want some native grasses that might be ornamental in the space when the flowers are not in bloom, consider these: Sisyrinchium sagittiferum (spearbract blue-eyed grass) and Nassella tenuissima (finestem needlegrass). Understand, in both flowers and grasses there are many other possibilities, but now that you know how to search our Native Plant Database, you may choose others if you prefer.

 


Castilleja indivisa

Oenothera speciosa

Sisyrinchium sagittiferum

 


Nassella tenuissima
 

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