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
Not Yet Rated

Wednesday - April 30, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Seasonal Tasks, Seeds and Seeding
Title: Too late to begin planting in May in Austin?
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Is it too late to begin planting in May? I live in Austin Texas and have finally completed my plans for a native Texas landscaping (plants and grass) of my front yard. I'd like to get the landscaping done this year but worry that it may be too hard on the plants to plant them in May. What do you recommend?


If it's not too late, it's getting pretty close. Please read this article on Gardening Timeline from our How-To Articles to get some feel for the best times to do planting. This is not to say you have to leave your landscape bare until Fall, that's not a good idea, either, because weeds know no season. However, you need to get going just as soon as possible.

Don't try to transplant anything bare-root unless it's absolutely necessary. Container-grown plants that have been kept watered and look healthy have a better chance. And don't go out and buy everything at once. At the nursery, the plants are often in shade areas, and are watered regularly, but if you have a whole lot of stuff at home at once, it is going to start wilting and suffering. Unless you have professional help digging and planting, you could lose your plant before you ever get your hole dug.

Especially woody plants, shrubs, trees, need to get in the ground and start getting water, as they are going to be prone to transplant shock. You should stick a hose in the fresh soil around the plant and let water dribble slowly into the hole until water appears on the surface. This should be repeated every couple of days until the plant seems well-established. Bedding plants and plugs of grass can also be planted, but, again, will need some extra water for a while. If you take any plant out of its pot and it seems to be root-bound, that is, the roots are going around and around in the shape of the pot, clip some of those roots. It may seem brutal, but the plant needs to be forced to put its roots out into the soil where it is going to grow. If those roots are left alone, the plant will strangle itself. Any planting is better done late in the afternoon, where it will begin to cool off and not be such a strain on the plant. In Austin, the heat is a far greater threat to our plants than any cold could ever be.

Seeds for wildflowers still should be held and planted in the Fall, in the natural cycle of planting the same time the plants are dropping their seeds. In case you have not already read it, see this article on A Guide to Native Plant Gardening. And, finally, consider the soil you are putting those fresh young roots into. See this article on Composting; this is something you can start in the summer and keep doing year round. It is good for all soils, improving texture and drainage and helping keep the roots cool (or warm, in the winter). If you haven't already purchased or ordered your native plants, here is a list of area Native Plant Suppliers that can help you.


More Compost and Mulch Questions

Buffalograss for Mason County, TX
August 19, 2009 - I am interested in planting buffalo grass at a ranch home in between Mason and Fredericksburg, TX. I've read buffalograss doesn't do well in sandy soils, which this area (Hilda, TX) seems to have a ...
view the full question and answer

Are Eastern White Pine suitable for Waxhaw NC
February 13, 2011 - Pinus strobus ( White Pine )- I wish to plant four of these evergreens along our property lines as a screen. Our county is selling one foot plants in a container. Our soil is clay. Are these t...
view the full question and answer

Buffalo grass and other native grass for lawn in Central Texas
March 17, 2008 - Hi, I live in Cedar Park, TX - recently moved to into a newly built house. I wanted to put some native grass (like buffalo) in the back yard. - My back yard has slope (away from house) and front...
view the full question and answer

Dividing blackeyed susans in Lake Ronkoko NY
July 06, 2009 - How are you supposed to divide blackeyed susan's? And when is the best time to do this?
view the full question and answer

Need evergreen hedge and groundcover for shade in Carmel, Indiana
September 27, 2010 - Our property is bounded by a fencerow that is wooded and mostly shaded by mulberry and hackberry trees during the growing months. We'd like to create a 5'+ tall evergreen barrier on the property li...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center