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
2 ratings

Thursday - April 09, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Native plants for groundcover under Magnolia in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What plants native to the Austin, Tx area will do well underneath a large magnolia tree (instead of the English ivy that is there)?

ANSWER:

Unfortunately, we find ourselves talking more and more about allelopathy, as more is being learned about it. This is a process by which a tree, usually as it matures, emits substances from leaves, twigs or even roots that inhibit the growth of competing plants beneath that tree. Species of magnolia definitely are offenders in this respect. We would certainly recommend that you remove the non-native English ivy, for reasons laid out in this Plant Conservation Alliance Alien Plant Working Group site Least Wanted-Hedera helix, (English ivy). It is an invasive plant and can damage brickwork and kill trees if allowed to grow unchecked. 

Besides the emission of toxic substances, the dense shade of Magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia) can also prevent the flourishing of understory plants. However, we will suggest a few shade plants, a couple ferns and some grasses, that could hopefully overcome both disadvantages and give you an attractive native cover beneath the tree. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center recommends only plants native not to North America and to the area in which they are being grown; plants already acclimated to the climate, rainfall and temperatures will require less maintenance, water and fertilizer.

Plants for under a magnolia tree

Athyrium filix-femina (common ladyfern) - 2 to 3 ft. tall, part shade, shade

Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy) - 6" to 1 ft. tall, sun, part shade, shade

Hydrocotyle umbellata (manyflower marshpennywort) - 6" to 1 ft. tall, sun, part shade, shade

Onoclea sensibilis (sensitive fern) -  to 3 ft. tall, part shade, shade

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox) - 8" to 18" tall, part shade, shade

Ruellia drummondiana (Drummond's wild petunia) - 1 to 3 ft. tall, part shade, shade

Viola lanceolata (bog white violet) - part shade, shade

Viola missouriensis (Missouri violet) - 6" to 1 ft. tall, part shade, shade

Grasses for under a magnolia tree

Bromus ciliatus (fringed brome) - sun, part shade, shade

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) - 2 to 4 ft. tall, part shade, shade

Muhlenbergia schreberi (nimblewill) - 1 to 2-1/2 ft. tall, part shade, shade

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass) - 3 to 6 ft. tall, sun, part shade, shade


Athyrium filix-femina

Calyptocarpus vialis

Hydrocotyle umbellata

Onoclea sensibilis

Phlox divaricata

Ruellia drummondiana

Viola lanceolata

Viola missouriensis

Bromus ciliatus

Chasmanthium latifolium

Muhlenbergia schreberi

Sorghastrum nutans

 

 

 

 

More Groundcovers Questions

Non-native invasive chickweed in Collegeville PA
December 31, 2011 - My problem is chickweed. I have found considerable information on how to eliminate the chickweed. My question is after following a suggested elimination process: How and when do I reseed with grass?...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a sandy slope at a weekend cabin in central WI.
June 30, 2009 - I have a cabin in central Wisconsin where the soil is equivalent to a sandy beach. There are some areas that are nearly impossible to mow because of how steep the incline is. Could you recommend som...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover that won't hide snakes from Asheville NC
June 29, 2012 - I have an unusual situation: several bare areas in an otherwise wooded area, which receive partial sun, and are not near water -- it rains here frequently, but the soil can become quite dry at times. ...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for under oak in Plano, Texas
May 15, 2009 - I live in Plano Texas USA. I have a huge live oak tree in my front yard and a large Cape Myrtle as well under these trees no grass will grow so we have dirt or mud when it rains. Fact is the front y...
view the full question and answer

Grasses for Erosion control in Iowa
September 27, 2012 - We have a sloping yard in the midwest that gets 2-4 hours of sun during the warm weather. When we have large rainfalls, the water just pours down the slope causing a lot of erosion to the surrounding ...
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