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
13 ratings

Monday - April 14, 2008

From: Madison, OH
Region: Northeast
Topic: Transplants, Watering, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Native plants for sandy soil and not much water
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am planning a new garden at home and would like to grow native plants that can handle sandy soil and don't need much water. I do not water my gardens.I would prefer plants that can have more than one season of interest.

ANSWER:

We will definitely give you some suggestions for the types of plants you're looking for. But first, a couple of cautions about sandy soil and unwatered gardens. Sandy soil is very porous-water goes in and zips through on its way somewhere else. The opposite of that, of course, is clay soil that traps the water and can drown the poor hapless little plants.

When we garden on a piece of land, we don't get to pick the dirt, but we can amend it. And even that doesn't have to be done all at once. Mr. Smarty Plants is an advocate of composting, which not only helps to deliver nutrients to the plant, it helps the soil to be more hospitable to the roots. It disposes of yard wastes, as well as some kitchen waste, and gets to be kind of addictive, or at least it did for us. Here is a website A Complete Guide to Composting that not only gives you lots of good information, it links you to several other excellent sites on the same subject. For starters, you can buy compost (please, no peat moss) in bags at the garden store, but manufacturing your own will be much more satisfying.

Now, about the watering. We don't know how much average annual rainfall you get in Madison, Ohio, but we'll guarantee sometimes it's going to be too much and sometimes it's not going to be enough. Again, the compost helps out here, in that it will help hold the moisture in the soil so it doesn't go right out of the sand, and save that mosture for a non-rainy day. But, newly planted plants are going to need to be watered if it doesn't rain, no matter how little water they supposedly need to survive. They will suffer some transplant shock regardless, and those tiny little hair-like rootlets on the roots will need water readily available to pass on to the rest of the plant while it gets its act together. So, when you say you don't water your garden, do it while they get established, or kiss your investment, and the plants, goodbye.

Now, on to the Main Event. You didn't say which kinds of plants you were looking for, so we're going to our Recommended Species for Ohio, and choose some examples of flowering plants (herbs), shrubs, grasses, and trees. All will be perennial, so they don't have to be replanted every year, but they may die back, or at least drop their leaves, when the growing season is over. We will try to find some evergreen plants, or at least some with winter berries, in response to your request for interest in more than one season. We have just chosen samples of what is available, selecting for plants needing either sandy soil or well-drained soil. You can follow each plant link to a webpage that will give you more information, and down at the bottom of that page you will find a link to still more information from Google. To give yourself more choices, select "Recommended Species", select for Ohio, and whichever type of plant you are interested in.

HERBS

Anemone canadensis (Canadian anemone)

Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower)

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)

Rudbeckia laciniata (cutleaf coneflower)

SHRUBS

Cephalanthus occidentalis (common buttonbush)

Rhus copallinum (winged sumac)

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis (common elderberry)

Viburnum acerifolium (mapleleaf viburnum)

GRASSES

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama)

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

TREES

Amelanchier laevis (Allegheny serviceberry)

Cercis canadensis (eastern redbud)

Cornus florida (flowering dogwood)

Ilex opaca (American holly)


Anemone canadensis

Conoclinium coelestinum

Echinacea purpurea

Rudbeckia laciniata

Cephalanthus occidentalis

Rhus copallinum

Sambucus nigra ssp. canadensis

Viburnum acerifolium

Andropogon gerardii

Bouteloua curtipendula

Schizachyrium scoparium

Sorghastrum nutans

Amelanchier laevis

Cercis canadensis

Cornus florida

Ilex opaca

 

 

 

More Watering Questions

Watering Oak Trees in the Summer
July 15, 2011 - Should you water oak trees in the summer? Some people say its not good for them. But many trees seem to be withering up and dying in this heat. Especially the black jack oaks. There are also post ...
view the full question and answer

Copper Canyon daisy leaves turning yellow in Spring Branch TX
September 01, 2010 - My Copper Canyon daisies have grown well this year but the leaves are turning yellow. Any ideas?
view the full question and answer

Watering live oak trees from McAllen TX
December 24, 2012 - What are the watering requirements for live oak trees in deep south Texas? How often and how many inches to be applied? One pop-up spray sprinkler spaced approximately fifteen feet away from each tr...
view the full question and answer

Death of Texas Betony and Blackfoot Daisy from Austin
April 18, 2013 - I have one small area that there are two plants - Texas Betony and Blackfoot Daisy withered and died eventually. Same kinds of plants are doing fine close by. It is my front yard close to walk way.I w...
view the full question and answer

Dry browning leaves on Monterrey Oak from San Antonio
August 08, 2013 - I have a Monterey Oak that was planted four years ago and was doing great until the last two weeks. It has turned brown and the ends of the branches are very dry and brittle. The root flare was cov...
view the full question and answer

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