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 Cacti and Succulents Questions

Bringing upright a leaning cholla cactus
August 29, 2013 - I have a 3 ft. tall Cylindropuntia bigelovii that fell over after recent rains. I righted it and supported it with garden stakes for about a month. I was afraid to pull too hard on the low...
view the full question and answer

Century plants spread through offshots from Rye TX
September 20, 2010 - How do century plants spread? Are the little ones the babies?
view the full question and answer

Information about ice plant (Carpobrotus edulis)
May 06, 2008 - I recently planted some Carpobrotus edulis, Ice plant, and wanted to know if I can mulch or put stones around the entire garden and plants. They are a ground cover plant.
view the full question and answer

Speeding up growth of Hesperaloe parviflora (red yucca)
January 12, 2012 - I have germinated Hesperaloe parviflora, Red Yucca, for our Caddo Native plant sale. I have kept in the cool greenhouse for 2 months and they are about 2 inches. A friend put one outside and they froz...
view the full question and answer

Moving Century plants in Norwalk CA
September 15, 2009 - I have two large Century plants that are each 10 1/2 years old. One is 4'x5' tall and wide with about 8-10 small shoots. The smaller in about 3 1/2'x 5' with about 6 shoots. They've grown too l...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center