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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.

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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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Thursday - May 29, 2008

From: Houston, , TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Seasonal Tasks, Trees
Title: Will a Norfolk pine survive winter in Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

If I transplant a Norfolk pine in the summer, or when is the best time, will it survive the winter growing in Houston Tx? Can you give me some suggestions for fast growing vines facing the front of my house (western exposure). Will clematis work?

ANSWER:

The Norfolk Pine (not actually a pine) is endemic to Norfolk Island, a small island in the Pacific Ocean between Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia. As such, it is way out of the range of expertise of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, which specializes in the care and propagation of plants native to North America. We did find a Floridata website on Araucaria heterophylla that has some information that might be useful to you. The ordinary hardiness zone for this plant is Zone 10-11 and it will begin to sustain damage at 40 deg F. The Houston hardiness zone is 9a; however, it is noted that it is grown outdoors in Florida in protected micro-climates throughout Zone 9. A south-facing wall, in direct sunlight in the winter, with perhaps a flanking wall for more protection from the wind, would constitute a micro-climate of sorts. If you are willing to experiment, you could certainly try to grow the tree in Houston. As to when to transplant, since it is a native of the Southern Hemisphere, we could not find any information on when to plant this tree outside. So, we're going to suggest planting it in the Fall, when the worst of the heat is past, to give it time to accustom itself to the conditions before the chances of cold weather approaching. And, again, it will have several months to brace itself for the Houston summers.

On your second question, vines for a western exposure on your house in Houston, here are a few possibilities, most tolerant of sun to part shade, and all native to Texas.

Clematis pitcheri (bluebill) - perennial, but dies to ground in the Fall.

Bignonia capreolata (crossvine) - usually evergreen, climbs by tendrils, attracts hummingbirds.

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper) - climbs by tendrils, deciduous, poisonous berries.

Passiflora incarnata (purple passionflower) - herbaceous perennial, climbs with axillary tendrils or sprawls, needs part shade.

 

From the Image Gallery


Purple leatherflower
Clematis pitcheri

Crossvine
Bignonia capreolata

Virginia creeper
Parthenocissus quinquefolia

Purple passionflower
Passiflora incarnata

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