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?

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
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
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 Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Planting Muhlenbergia rigens in Austin
August 16, 2010 - I have a question about when I can plant Deer Muhly (AKA Muhlenbergia Rigens). It's pretty hot now, but I would like to know how much it needs to cool down before I can plant these grasses?
view the full question and answer

Replacement for Kentucky grass in Colorado
July 02, 2012 - What kind of grass to replace "Kentucky grass"? It uses too much water. Need drought tolerant grass for the Rifle, Colorado area ("zip code is 81650"). Water bill is way too high, pushing over $10...
view the full question and answer

Lawn Maintenance in Colorado
March 20, 2010 - When do I begin to fertilize and water my grass in Colorado Springs? I am selling my house and want my lawn to look green?
view the full question and answer

Plants to hold a slope in Western PA
April 04, 2010 - We have a hillside that keeps moving/sliding due to lack of vegetation. What kind of ground covering can we plant to help maintain and stabilize the hillside? If you need to know the climate here, we...
view the full question and answer

Native grasses palatable for horses and eliminating KR bluestem.
January 11, 2008 - Looking for native Texas grasses which are palatable for horses, to overseed in areas which are currently overrun with KR bluestem. What are the best grasses and best way to accomplish this? (SW Gi...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center