En EspaŅol

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?


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
9 ratings

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


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!


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







More Shade Tolerant Questions

Darkened leaves on blueberry bush
July 02, 2008 - I have a blueberry bush planted in a very large pot. It has been doing very well, producing berries and new growth. All of a sudden the leaves have begun to turn dark. I have it potted in good soil...
view the full question and answer

Large shrub for screen in shade
June 11, 2008 - I am trying to find some large shrubs that will thrive in shade in the north Texas climate. This area will receive very little light during the day but need to grow quite large to hide a fence and cr...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for shaded sandy soil in Long Island, NY
May 12, 2009 - I live on the north fork of Long Island (Zone 7) I would like to find a grass or low ground cover that will grow in shaded sandy soil. The yard has quite a few trees. It also has to stand up to modera...
view the full question and answer

Deer resistant, drought and shade tolerant plants to go under oak tree in Austin
March 21, 2011 - What is the best deer resistant, drought resistant native plant to grow under my huge Oak tree? Grass does not grow. Will iris bloom?
view the full question and answer

Perennial phlox for partial shade
April 16, 2008 - I am planting a butterfly garden in a plot that gets sun in the morning and shade in the afternoon. I read that phlox does well in partial-shade areas, and was wondering which native, perennial phlox ...
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center