Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
2 ratings

Friday - January 11, 2008

From: Western, MD
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Landscaping with wildflowers in shade in Maryland
Answered by: Nan Hampton and Joe Marcus

QUESTION:

I'm an old White House Correspondent who covered LBJ as well as Mrs Johnson and knew and admired her. I visited the Wildflower Center with her on one occasion. I hope you will forward this to an appropriate expert. I want to plant wildflowers in a wooded section of my back yard that has very little sun. I can't grow grass there but there is some English Ivy and vinca. However it's pretty scraggily in appearance. I'd like to have some delicate wildflowers to add color and life to that section, about 40 by 90 feet. The soil is somewhat rocky and slopes. I would like low maintenance flowers, ones that will not overrun my entire yard, just that one area. The rest of the back yard is done in single-shredded red oak mulch and looks very nice. Can you advise or put me in touch with a specialist?

ANSWER:

In our experience, trying to plan a landscape without knowing about the soils, climate, moisture, etc. is difficult and usually not too productive. So, first, we want to urge you to stick to native plants, not just native to North America, but to your area of the country. They will need less care, less water, and less fertilizer, plus they are not likely to become invasive and overrun other parts of the garden. Then, we want to give you some information that hopefully will assist you in selection of the plants that will fit your criteria and finding sources for them and, if you feel you need them, landscape planners who specialize in native plants.

To begin, follow this link to our "How To Articles" and read the ones of interest to you. Next, go to our Combination Search page, and make the appropriate selections to get information and pictures on plants native to your area. We would urge you to consider not just wildflowers, but other plants, such as shrubs and grasses, to fill this very large space. A field of waving wildflowers in May is gorgeous; in November, it's a bunch of dead weeds. You will want something else to give shape, texture and color to your garden when there are no wildflowers blooming.

Finally, go to our Native Plant Suppliers site, and ask for a list of Maryland businesses that supply native plants and/or have on-staff experts that can better advise you on what you need to do than we can.

Just to give you an example of some of the plants you can learn about on our Native Plants Database, we used the Combination Search for Maryland and picked out three plants that happen to be our favorites, too.

Herb (annual or perennial flowers) Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Shrub Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Grass or grasslike Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

 


Asclepias tuberosa

Callicarpa americana

Bouteloua curtipendula

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Seed source for Carex texensis from Louisville KY
May 02, 2012 - Your reply to my question re a grass for my Kentucky home with cistern only water available was much appreciated, Carex texensis was recommended. I am unable to find this product for sale other than ...
view the full question and answer

Identifying native sedges
October 14, 2013 - What's the best way to identify a specific sedge ?
view the full question and answer

Ornamental grasses under desert willows from Dallas, TX
September 06, 2013 - I am planning on planting 3 desert willows in full sun, below the power lines at the back of my back yard in the White Rock Lake area of Dallas. I would like to plant some ornamental grasses in the be...
view the full question and answer

Shade tolerant plants for Waynesville MO
April 09, 2013 - We moved to Waynesville, MO (gardening region 6) and when we bought our house there was a nice looking gardening area in front of the house. It is shaded moderately by a Redwood Tree and was "occupie...
view the full question and answer

Is Phyla lanceolata (frogfruit) poisonous to dogs fromTitusville FL?
June 01, 2014 - Is Phyla lanceolata, also called Fogfruit, Lanceleaf Fogfruit, or Northern Fogfruit, toxic to dogs? We have it growing amongst our grass. I can't find it on any toxic plant list.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.