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
1 rating

Wednesday - April 15, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Privacy Screening, Shrubs
Title: Combining native shrubs for hedge in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Smarty, Please tell me what the definitions are for all the various water, soil moisture, drainage and light requirements mean. Are the definitions global? I live in Central East Austin and intended to plant my newly purchased Agaritas and Wax Myrtles together, but came home from the Wildflower Center and found they have different water and moisture requirements. So it looks like I may have to go to plan B and plant the Agarita with Yaupon Holly---will that pairing work? (I want to screen my neighbor's yard as well as provide habitat for wildlife that includes cottontails and roadrunners.) Sincerely, Confused

ANSWER:

We don't know about global definitions, but we can tell you what our definitions of some of the terms referring to various plants are:

Sun is 6 hours or more of sun daily, part shade 2 to 6 hours,  shade less than 2 hours of sun a day.

Good drainage means water does not stand on the surface of the soil for more than a few minutes. Especially in our alkaline soil, drainage is very important, and compost added to the soil will help just about any plant. The compost not only enriches the soil and improves its texture, but it helps to make trace elements necessary to the plant available in the soil. If you don't know what your drainage is, dig a hole, run water in it, and if water is still standing in it in about 30 minutes, you probably have clay soil and you definitely have poor drainage. 

Soil moisture refers to the normal condition of the soil when it hasn't been raining or watering has not  just occurred. Most of the soils in Austin would have to be considered dry. 

We recommend plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown, because those plants are already adapted to the climate, rainfall and soils. 

You are correct, while Mahonia trifoliolata (agarita) and Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) have low water requirements and do well in sun or part shade, as well as alkaline soil, Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) needs more moisture and does better in sandy, slightly acidic soil. The wax myrtle, while it will do okay in Central Texas, is more an East Texas kind of shrub. Trying to mix these shrubs in a hedge is going to be a little awkward as the agarita only grows to 3 to 5 ft., 8 ft. under favorable conditions. The yaupon grows from 12 to 25 ft. tall. If you're thinking of building a screen, you might have a problem with the fact that the agarita will not grow nearly as high as the yaupon. All three will serve your desire for attracting wildlife, but not necessarily a uniform hedge.  In general, a "mixed" hedge might be a little harder to care for and not as uniform looking. If you want to make a visual barrier, the yaupon is your best bet. If you want to have a physical barrier, agarita is the thing-it is thick and stickery-trespassing would be painful.

Yaupon and wax myrtle are listed as "dioecious," which means that only the females have berries and there must be a male of the same species, blooming at the same time, within 30 to 40 feet, for the berries to develop. If you had a hedge of 12 yaupons, for example, a couple of males in that hedge would assure berries on the females.


Mahonia trifoliolata

Mahonia trifoliolata

Ilex vomitoria

Ilex vomitoria

 

 

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Decline ot Heartleaf rosemallow from Austin
March 26, 2012 - My tulipan del monte -a new small plant from the wildflower center--did great all winter and was forming a new flower bud, just died in a matter of a few days. It looks like it "dried up", no visib...
view the full question and answer

What causes rock rose branches to snap off?
August 30, 2013 - my small texas rock rose branches keep snapping in the center. What is causing this and what can I do?
view the full question and answer

Low-maintenance native plants for Arizona
March 12, 2009 - Will you please suggest some Native plants that can be left without care for the summer and survive - other than cactus?
view the full question and answer

Identification of tree or shrub from Simms TX
February 13, 2011 - Thought you might have the expertise to help identify this tree/shrub? They were planted about 10 years ago and started in a pot about 2 feet high. I have photos but not sure how to send them to you; ...
view the full question and answer

Lack of Blooms and Low Hanging Limbs on Mountain Laurels
August 06, 2014 - My mountain laurel didn't bloom this year but has a few hard pods on it. It is 9 ft tall but very top heavy with most growth low. I need to prune it a lot at the bottom because it has branches hangi...
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