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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - March 24, 2005

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Water Gardens, Cacti and Succulents, Ferns
Title: Tropical-looking landscape in Austin, TX
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I'd like to have a tropical-looking landscape in my front yard. What plants would you recommend for Austin, Texas? I would prefer plants that can stay outside year-round, but will take suggestions on any kind of plant that will thrive outdoors in full to partial sun. I'd also like to know if bird-of-paradise is a good option. I saw a lot of them planted in the ground in San Diego, and their winters seemed just about as cold as ours.

ANSWER:

There are several suggestions for native Texas plants to give your yard a tropical look. For instance, you might consider:

Palmetto (Sabal minor),
Texas palm (S. mexicana),
Spanish dagger (Yucca treculeana),
ferns such as cinnamon fern (Osmunda cinnamomea), and
heartleaf hibiscus (Hibiscus martianus).

We wouldn't really recommend Bird-of-paradise (Strelitzia reginae) for Austin since it is non-native (from South Africa), but also because we are too far north and too dry for it. A hard winter would do it in. Austin's summers are probably just as big a problem for many non-native tropical plants as its winters. Our summers are so hot and dry that many tropical plants succumb to desiccation. Likewise, our winters are not usually very humid so that desiccation, as well as freezing, are problems for evergreen tropicals. The tropical look you are trying to achieve will require more maintenance and resources if you use non-native tropical plants.

You might try visiting some of the better (locally-owned) garden centers in the area. The tropical look is popular and the Austin garden centers are used to accommodating such requests and stock plants, both native and non-native, for that specific purpose. You can find a list of native plant nurseries in Texas on the Wildflower Center web page and Native Plant and Seed Sources for Texas from the Texas Parks & Wildlife web page.

Finally, If you were interested in creating a water garden, you would have a number of choices for "tropical-looking" native plants. For instance, you could consider:

pickerel weed (Pontederia cordata),
one of the Texas arrowheads, such as duck-potato (Sagittaria latifolia),
one of the Texas horsetails, such as field horsetail (Equisetum arvense),
water lilies, such as American water lily (Nympaea odorata) or the yellow water lotus (Nelumbo lutea),
and larger plants such as marshmallow hibiscus

The Austin Pond Society web page has links to regional water gardening nurseries where you might find these recommended native plants.

 

More Ferns Questions

Hanging Baskets for Batson, TX
May 23, 2014 - What plants can I put in hanging baskets for my shady porch?
view the full question and answer

Plants for a moist, wooded area in North Carolina
December 06, 2014 - I am looking to plant some native flowers in a wooded area in Surry County NC. The chosen location is fully shaded beside a creek. The water table typically sets about 2 feet below the surface of th...
view the full question and answer

Plants to prevent creekside erosion in Nacogdoches County, Texas
December 09, 2014 - I am looking for some advice on plants native to Texas that can help prevent erosion. I own a wooded lot with a creek and would like to consolidate the sides of the creek against potential erosion. I...
view the full question and answer

Winter hardy fern for northeast Texas
May 20, 2009 - I am looking for a winter hardy fern to grown around my deck. The area would get some morning sun but afternoon shade. What do you suggest?
view the full question and answer

Are philodendrons, variegated ginger, sword ferns and palms toxic to horses?
February 24, 2009 - Are philodendrons, variegated ginger, sword ferns and palms toxic to horses?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center