En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Sunday - October 19, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Winter care of native perennials in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Last spring I planted some wildflowers suggested by Deryn Davidson. they did extremely well. I planted-Gulf Muhly,Big Muhly,Red Yucca,Purple Cone Flower,Wine Cup, Large Buttercup And Mealy Blue sage, also Blackfoot Daisy.My question is:What do I do with these plants to get them ready for the winter months?


And very nice choices, too, you chose wisely in asking Deryn for advice in your selections. Because these are all tough natives of this area, they don't need any wrapping, or covering, etc. to get them through the winter. You can follow the link of each plant to our webpage on that plant and get some of the answers to your questions, and/or go to the bottom of that webpage and follow a link on that plant to Google. We will give you some brief suggestions and you can go from there.

Muhlenbergia capillaris (hairawn muhly) - These are beautiful in the Fall and hold their place. In early Spring you can rake the loose, dead stems out of the grass clump to tidy it up, but trimming or pruning is never recommended.

Muhlenbergia lindheimeri (Lindheimer's muhly) - Semi-evergreen, can also use some raking out in early Spring. It is not necessary to cut this grass back and it will be slow to fill in if you do.

Hesperaloe parviflora (redflower false yucca) Although not a true yucca, this is evergreen. Except for tidying up, removing any dead flower stalks or blades, and keeping dead leaves, etc. cleaned out (to help prevent mold) this really doesn't need any particular Winter care.

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower) - This plant kind of takes care of its own winterizing. The bloom stalks will die back, and should be trimmed off close to their base. If a rosette of green leaves remains, leave it there to mark where to expect new plants to come up in the Spring. Or just trim back the dead leaf stalks leaving 6" or so to mark the spot. 

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow) - evergreen to semi-evergreen, which means it will hold its place and you'll know where to expect it to begin blooming in the Spring. If the foliage dies back, just remember what it looks like so you won't pull up what you think is a weed in the Spring.

Ranunculus macranthus (large buttercup) - this is herbaceous, which means it will lose its leaves and die back to the ground. It grows easily from seed, and will probably come back both from the roots and from its own self-sown seeds. Blooms March to May, so expect an early showing.

Salvia farinacea (mealycup sage) - this plant is herbaceous, but will usually leave a rosette of leaves to mark its place; if not, leave some stalks to mark it. During the blooming season, the blooming stalks should be cut back to their base when they have finished their bloom. Rake dead plant matter away from the base to keep insects from wintering over. 

Melampodium leucanthum (plains blackfoot) - In late Winter, older plants can be cut back halfway to keep them compact.

Muhlenbergia capillaris

Muhlenbergia lindheimeri

Hesperaloe parviflora

Echinacea purpurea

Callirhoe involucrata

Ranunculus macranthus

Salvia farinacea

Melampodium leucanthum



More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Weed and feed for buffalograss
October 30, 2007 - What is a good winterizer or weed & feed for buffalo grass? I live in Southwest Austin.
view the full question and answer

Wildlife and bird friendly hedgerow for Chicago suburb
November 30, 2013 - Want to plant a wildlife/bird friendly hedgerow in suburban Chicago. Looking for a recommended mix of understory trees as well a shrubs and grasses. Site is part shade with average to wet soil and tr...
view the full question and answer

Grass for detention pond in Illinois
October 06, 2008 - Hi, please advise regarding grass for bottom of detention pond. I have pond with drawdown time 4 days, what grass could survive being underwater 4 days, and not die? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Will blue eyed grass grow under black walnut trees?
January 18, 2016 - Will blue eyed grass grow under black walnut trees? I know the Siberian Iris is tolerant but the scientific names are not the same yet everything I read indicates that blue eyed grass is not in the g...
view the full question and answer

Plants to prevent erosion on slope in Texas
June 19, 2010 - We have an erosion problem developing on the low side of a gently sloping hill. We are in clay soil at the base of the hill with oaks and pines. We have a right of way that is without trees forty fee...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center