Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

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
1 rating

Friday - November 14, 2008

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Small area native plant gardening for an apartment
Answered by: Jan Kvale and Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Mr.Smarty, We live in an apartment and are fortunate to have a small area, 5'x5', and so want color! Here in Houston the winters don't freeze much and the summers are HOT. Luckily, we are in the shade! We are on a budget but our new home needs color! We are looking forward to hearing from you.

ANSWER:

There are some wonderful Texas native plants that will provide color in your shady space. Because of the size constraints of your space, Mr. Smarty Plants assumes that container plants are the way to go. First, we recommend you take advantage of three of our How-To Articles, Using Native Plants, A Guide to Native Plant Gardening, and then Container Gardening with Native Plants. These will help you understand why at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we recommend only plants native to North America and to the area in which they are being grown, because since they are already adapted to conditions, they will need less water, fertilizer and maintenance. 

We are going to recommend some plants for your use, and you can make your own selections by going to Recommended Species, clicking on East Texas on the US map, clicking on NARROW YOUR SEARCH, and on the dropdown for "Habit", click on Herbs (herbaceous plants.) Since you say your area is shady, click on either "Shade" (less than 2 hours of sun a day), or "Part Shade" (2 to 6 hours of sun a day) or both, under "Light Requirements", and then click on the "Narrow Your Search" box at the bottom of the page. When we did this, we got 30 suggestions for herbaceous plants, both annual and perennial.

Below is a list of plants Mr. Smarty Plants suggests for a shady but showy container garden. A couple of shrubs are included and all the plants tolerate full or part shade. Follow the plant links to read the webpage on each plant, see how big it will get, how much water it requires, etc. so you'll know which ones will work best for you. When you have made a selection, go to our Native Plant Suppliers list, type in your town and state in the "Enter Search Location" box, and this will give you a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscape consultants in your general area. All of these plants are commercially available. Good luck!

Glandularia bipinnatifida (Dakota mock vervain) - annual, purple, violet, blooms March to October

Melampodium leucanthum (plains blackfoot) - perennial, white, yellow, March to November

Phacelia congesta (caterpillars) - annual or biennial, yellow, purple, March to May

Phlox drummondii (annual phlox) - annual, white, pink, red, purple, March to June

Salvia coccinea (blood sage) - annual, white, red, pink, February to October

Tradescantia gigantea (giant spiderwort) - perennial, white, pink, blue, purple, violet, March to April

Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista) -perennial, evergreen, white, green, March to July

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow) - perennial, deciduous, red, May to November

Hydrangea quercifolia (oakleaf hydrangea) - perennial, shrub, white, green, purple, June, July

Iris brevicaulis (zigzag iris) - perennial, white, yellow, blue, purple, March to October

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower) - perennial, red, May to October

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox) - perennial, white, red, pink, purple, March to May


Glandularia bipinnatifida

Melampodium leucanthum

Phacelia congesta

Phlox drummondii

Salvia coccinea

Tradescantia gigantea

Nolina texana

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Hydrangea quercifolia

Iris brevicaulis

Lobelia cardinalis

Phlox divaricata

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Problem with Eupatorium greggii
April 27, 2008 - At the Garden's fall plant sale in 2006, I bought some Eupatorium greggii. It did very well last year. Recently, the entire plant looks like it is just wilting from the top down, as if it has some so...
view the full question and answer

Flowering landscape plants for Montgomery TX
March 07, 2013 - Hello I live in Montgomery TX. I am looking for low growing evergreen flowering plants for the front of my three deep beds. The first plant closest to the foundation is loropetalum, then I have a blue...
view the full question and answer

Hearty, bushy native plants for windowboxes in Abilene, TX
October 08, 2005 - I live in Abilene, Tx and am a horrible gardener. I would love to have window boxes with some sort of hearty bushy plant. Any suggestions, I'm at a total loss...? Thanks!
view the full question and answer

Shady Groundcovers for NC
April 23, 2015 - I have a side yard that gets very little sun during the day and have tried St. Augustine grass unsuccessfully. Can you recommend a groundcover? We live close to the coast in Southeastern N. Carolina...
view the full question and answer

Converting a Texas backyard to grow Xerophytic native plants
January 09, 2015 - I am planning the conversion of our backyard, about 4000 sq ft of largely St Augustine, into a grassless landscape of hardscaping and native plants. Iíve been an avid gardener of rock garden plants i...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.