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
1 rating

Thursday - January 29, 2009

From: Los Gatos, CA
Region: California
Topic: Water Gardens, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Plants for under a fountain splash line in California
Answered by: Barbara Medford


What plants should we plant under our fountain's splash line in our Mediterranean style courtyard? The area will get wet from the fountain's splashing and have "full" sun. We are on a rock ridge and have very little soil. We are planning on planting Bouganvilla (away from the splash line) and are considering dwarf olive, roses, dwarf boxwoods and lavender. Similar to question dated December, 2008 from Washington. Thank you


Here is a link to that previous answer you mentioned. Your situation is different in that the original questioner was trying to establish vines growing up high over a pavilion over the fountain. This was causing problems in sun scald because the leaves were always wet and the area was always in full sun. The splash from the fountain you are referring to shouldn't be as difficult for the plants to deal with, although we will certainly not recommend any desert plants that might rot with too much moisture. 

Something else we will not recommend is any of the plants you are thinking of planting. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are committed to recommending not only plants native to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. Native plants, already habituated to a climate and its moisture by eons of experience will do better without excess water, fertilizer and maintenance. Olea europaea, dwarf olive, is from coastal areas of the eastern Meditteranean. Buxus sempervirens, boxwood, is from southern Europe, western Asia and northern Africa. The Lavandula genus consists of 39 species of flowering plants in the mint family, native to th Mediterranean region south to tropical Africa. Bougainville glabra originates in Brazil. While there are some native roses, you are more likely thinking of a hybrid tea. Just the fact that they are hybrids excludes them from being considered native, because we have no way of knowing what the parentage of the plant is nor how it will react to conditions. Most roses in commerce today originated in China, and over many centuries were carried to Europe, England and the United States. We would particularly discourage using any rose, including native roses, in the situation you are describing. Roses are very susceptible to black spot, a fungal disease depending on wet conditions to survive. It will weaken the plant so that fewer and fewer blooms are formed.

We understand your selections because you are planning a Mediterranean courtyard, and we certainly don't require anyone to take our recommendations and use only native plants. But that is all we recommend, because that's where our experience and expertise lies, and only native plants are in our (surprise!) Native Plant Database. We are going to go to our Recommended Species section, click on northern California, and then NARROW YOUR SEARCH by selecting first Herbs (herbaceous flowering plants) and then Shrubs under "Habit." We will also select for sun (more than 6 hours a day of sun) and moist soil. We will give you a list of those plants and you can follow the plant links to the individual page on each plant, and decide if it's appropriate for your use. If you have any difficulty finding plants you select from our recommendations, go to our Native Plant Suppliers section, type the name of your town and state into the "Enter Search Location" box and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and landscape and environmental consultants in your general area. 


Iris missouriensis (Rocky Mountain iris)

Linnaea borealis (twinflower)

Aruncus dioicus (bride's feathers)

Equisetum arvense (field horsetail)

Equisetum hyemale (scouringrush horsetail)

Hesperochiron pumilus (dwarf hesperochiron)


Hibiscus moscheutos (crimsoneyed rosemallow)

Spiraea splendens var. splendens (rose meadowsweet)

Iris missouriensis

Linnaea borealis

Aruncus dioicus

Equisetum arvense

Equisetum hyemale

Hesperochiron pumilus

Hibiscus moscheutos

Spiraea splendens var. splendens






More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Drooping leaves on iris in Phenix City, AL
May 02, 2009 - I had a bed FULL of iris rhizomes so I thinned them out and made two beds. They flowered perfectly but some of the flower stalks and some of the leaves began drooping over. The flowering is over. The ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for shaded area in East Texas
July 23, 2013 - I live in East Texas and have an area that is shaded most of the day - it only gets sun in the middle of the day but it is direct. What would be best? I would prefer something that won't freeze, bu...
view the full question and answer

Flowers to bloom in next 4 months from Aransas Pass, TX
July 24, 2013 - Looking for seeds to put down that will bloom over the next 4 months or so in the southern gulf coast area
view the full question and answer

Failure to bloom of Turk's cap in Midland TX
September 08, 2009 - My turk's cap won't make flowers. It has daily watering via irrigation system, and soft amended soil. The plant is beautiful and thriving, but no flowers. What should I do?
view the full question and answer

Plants for yard in Sweetwater, Texas
March 19, 2010 - What plants or grass would you suggest for an area that that is located on the east side of our house - full sun morning through noon, then it's shaded the remainder of the day.. Thanks!!
view the full question and answer

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