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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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Monday - January 21, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Texas natives that are shade tolerant for Austin, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I am looking for Texas native plants that are shade tolerant....specifically agaves (How about the Century Agave and the Queen Victoria Agave?) and something to add a splash of color (like bulbine, columbine, skull cap, penstemon, texas betony, and twist leaf yuccas). Your comments and suggestions would be much appreciated!

ANSWER:

Why don't we start with your plant suggestions and if those don't fill your requirement of shade-tolerant Texas natives, we'll dig a little deeper. (Excuse that, gardener joke)

First of all, with the possible exception of Agave americana (American century plant), which can tolerate some light shade, all of the agaves are listed as requiring sun. The Agave victoria-reginae does not appear on our Native Plants Database but we did find the website link above with some information on it. However, it appears that it is native to the Chihuahuan desert at elevations of 4000-5000 feet and may be considered a protected species.

The Bulbine frutescens not only is not native to Texas, it isn't native to North America, which is the main focus of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. It is a native of South Africa and the above website can give you some information, including the fact that it can tolerate some light shade.

There are a number of Columbines that are native or distributed in Texas. Probably the toughest and best-flowering of these is Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana (Hinckley's golden columbine), which requires some shade.

Of the 22 species of skullcap, we found these that were both native to Texas and admitted to needing shade to part shade: Scutellaria ovata (heartleaf skullcap), Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata (heartleaf skullcap), Scutellaria resinosa (sticky skullcap), and Scutellaria wrightii (Wright's skullcap).

When we went hunting for penstemon, there were 115 possibilities when we searched the database. We picked four that require shade to part shade, and are Texas natives. If you need more choices, go to the Native Plant Database and use the Combination Search to see what others interest you. The ones we chose are: Penstemon ambiguus (gilia beardtongue), Penstemon baccharifolius (baccharisleaf beardtongue), Penstemon cardinalis (cardinal beardtongue), and Penstemon cobaea (cobaea beardtongue).

Finally, Stachys coccinea (scarlet hedgenettle) (Texas Betony) and Yucca pallida (twistleaf yucca are both Texas natives needing sun to shade.

So, you have a pretty good list. There are no doubt many, many more that will suit your requirements. Just keep adjusting your search characteristics in the Native Plant Database, and you'll hopefully find everything you want.


Agave americana

Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana

Scutellaria ovata

Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata

Scutellaria resinosa

Scutellaria wrightii

Penstemon ambiguus

Penstemon baccharifolius

Penstemon cardinalis

Penstemon cobaea

Stachys coccinea

Yucca pallida

 















 

 

 

 

 

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