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

Friday - November 14, 2008

From: Livermore, CA
Region: California
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Ferns, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Tropical looking plants for pool area in California
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am looking for small tropical looking plants, groundcover, and 2-small trees for around my pool. They have to be non-toxic to dogs,cats, and people. They can't attract bees/wasps, or have a root system that may crack the pool walls. I am having a hard time finding what are safe. Plants with colorful leaves are great, since most flowers would be out. I live in Livermore, CA 94551. I think it is zone 10 (not sure). Thank you for your help.

ANSWER:

Well, you've given Mr. Smarty Plants a tough assignment.  First of all, unless we pick ferns and mosses, the plants are going to have flowers of some kind.  And, if they have flowers, it will difficult to find ones that aren't polinated by insects of some sort. Additionally, truly tropical plants aren't going to do well in your climate.  The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map shows Alameda County, California in Zones 9a (20 to 25 °) and 9B (25 to 30 °).  You could consider ferns for some of the plants around your pool.  They do not produce flowers and do not attract insects as pollinators.  Most ferns grow in shade or part shade and require at least a moderate amount of moisture.  Here are a few ferns native to California and Alameda County.  None of them appears on any of the toxic databases listed below and they do look rather tropical:

Ferns:

Athyrium filix-femina (common ladyfern

Blechnum spicant (deer fern)

Dryopteris arguta (coastal woodfern) and photos

Pellaea andromedifolia (coffee cliffbrake)

Polystichum munitum (western swordfern)

Woodwardia fimbriata (giant chainfern) with photos from Stanford University

The following small trees are native to your area.  None of them appear on any of the following toxic databases, but I don't guarantee that they won't be visited by bees and other insects.

Small Trees:

Umbellularia californica (California laurel)

Heteromeles arbutifolia (toyon)

Acacia farnesiana (sweet acacia)

Arctostaphylos glauca (big berry manzanita)

Morella californica (California wax myrtle) with photos

Groundcover.  The following are recommended as groundcover.  Neither of them appear on any of the following toxic databases, but I don't guarantee that they won't be visited by bees and other insects.

Ribes viburnifolium (island gooseberry) 

Salvia spathacea (hummingbird sage)

Toxic databases:

Poisonous Plants of North Carolina, Cornell University Plants Poisonous to Livestock, Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System, University of Pennsylvania's Poisonous Plants, and Texas Toxic Plants Database.

 


Athyrium filix-femina

Blechnum spicant

Pellaea andromedifolia

Polystichum munitum

Umbellularia californica

Heteromeles arbutifolia

Acacia farnesiana

Ribes viburnifolium

Salvia spathacea

 

 

 

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Need some help with my Mexican Bush Sage in Rockport, TX.
July 07, 2011 - My Mexican bush sage looks leggy,ratty and sparse. It's planted in full sun and was cut back to the ground in early spring. My soil is sand and I've watered it sparingly as we've had no rain. I'm...
view the full question and answer

Need to stabilize a south facing slope in Henderson, NC
April 30, 2010 - Hi, I have a south facing slope that is heavy clay with rock under it. It gets a lot of sun. I have planted a few bushes and some ground cover, but with all the snow and rain we had this past winter, ...
view the full question and answer

Native aparejograss and Water-cress at a spring in Horeshoe Bay TX
February 24, 2012 - AT a small spring that seeps from a rocky hill on my ranch near Austin, a stringy grass called aparejograss has replaced the watercress that used to be there. Should I be worried? Does the appearance...
view the full question and answer

Cake decorations with flowers
February 25, 2009 - Can I decorate a cake with bluebonnets, lavender or mountain laurel blooms?
view the full question and answer

Plants for a drainage easement in central Texas
September 29, 2008 - I have a 1/3 acre of drainage easement behind my home. I would like to cover it with wildflowers. It is only wet during or shortly after a rain and otherwise does not have water. I have channelled ...
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center