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Thursday - May 14, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Drought Tolerant
Title: Native plants for a school garden in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


We are starting a native garden at our school in Central Austin, what native plants and flowers would be best to plant? The area we are planting faces east. We also need drought tolerant plants because it will get little watering during June and July when school is closed. The area is 6 ft by 50 ft. Thank you for your suggestions


First, we want to apologize for being so slow answering your question. We ordinarily try to answer questions within one to two weeks, but we get literally hundreds of questions in the Spring, and somehow, yours got lost in the shuffle. Because we are so late, we hope you have already done the things you needed to do to get the garden going. Particularly if plants are going to be untended a lot of the time, they need to be well-established before the hot weather comes in. So, we'll give you some very loose guidelines that you can perhaps use for this project next year.

We'll begin by sending you to articles written by people who really know what they are talking about, to get you started. Both of these are from Texas A&M Aggie Horticulture, and both have the same names, but they really are different articles. So, here is School Gardens No. 1 and School Garden No. 2. And, honest, this is the last one, from the School Gardens Network, We Are a Collaboration.

Now, since we really don't know at what stage you are, we will do just as you asked and give you a list of plants and flowers that we think would work well in your garden. You didn't say if you would have sun or shade, or if any preparation had been made of the soil, and whether someone could water at least during the first few weeks of planting, so we'll just pick some plants for the Austin area that we think are tough and would be enjoyable to have. We will pick perennials, in hopes your project will continue in the future, and select some that we know should attract butterflies, perhaps be larval hosts, or give some nesting materials to birds. Besides flowering plants, we are going to suggest some native grasses that are both attractive, holding their place year round, helping to hold the soil, and giving cover to wildlife visitors.You can go to our Native Plant Database, do a Combination Search, put in the amount of light or water available, and make your own lists. Follow the plant links below to the webpage for each individual plant and read about its light and moisture needs, the expected height it will grow, and blooming times.

Blooming herbaceous perennials

Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed) - deciduous, to 3 ft. tall, blooms orange, yellow May to September, low water use, sun or part shade. Both a larval and/or nectar source for Monarch and Queen butterflies.

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow) - evergreen, to 1 ft. tall, blooms white, pink, purple March to June, medium water use, sun or part shade. Larval host for Gray Hairstreak butterfly.

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed) - evergreen, 2 ft. tall, blooms yellow April to June, medium water use, sun, part shade or shade. Attracts butterflies, nectar source.

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower) - deciduous, 2 to 5 ft. tall, blooms pink, purple April to September, medium water use, sun or part shade. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

Melampodium leucanthum (plains blackfoot) - deciduous, to 1 ft. tall, blooms white, yellow March to November, low water use, sun or part shade. Nectar source for bees, butterflies; seeds for birds.

Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot) - deciduous, 1 to 3 ft. tall, blooms white, pink, purple May to September, medium water use, sun, part shade. Attracts birds, hummingbirds, butterflies.

Ratibida columnifera (upright prairie coneflower) - deciduous, to 3 ft. tall, blooms orange, yellow, brown May to October, medium water use, sun. Nectar for bees and butterflies, seeds for birds.

Salvia coccinea (blood sage) - deciduous, to 3 ft. tall, blooms white, red, pink, February to October, medium water use, sun, part shade or shade. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies.


Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - 2 to 3 ft. tall, medium water use, sun or part shade. Attracts birds, butterflies; larval host for Green Skipper, Dotted Skipper butterflies.

Bouteloua hirsuta (hairy grama) - 1 to 3 ft. tall, water use low, part shade. Larval host for Orange Giant Skipper, Green Skipper.

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) - 2 to 4 ft tall, medium water use, part shade or shade, attracts butterflies, larval host.

Schizachyrium scoparium (little bluestem) - 18 to 24 inches tall, low water use, sun or part shade. Attracts birds and butterflies; larval host for Dusted Skipper, Indian Skipper, Crossline Skipper and Ottoe Skipper.

Asclepias tuberosa

Callirhoe involucrata

Coreopsis lanceolata

Echinacea purpurea

Melampodium leucanthum

Monarda fistulosa

Ratibida columnifera

Salvia coccinea

Bouteloua curtipendula

Bouteloua hirsuta

Chasmanthium latifolium

Schizachyrium scoparium







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