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
Not Yet Rated

Friday - April 24, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Wildlife Gardens, Grasses or Grass-like
Title: Protecting plants from birds near bird feeder
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I am happy to have several cardinal pairs living in my yard, but I need to discourage them from eating & destroying my purple heart planted under the huge cedar that holds my bird feeders. The cardinals bite beak-shaped chunks out of the purple leaves until nearly all of the leaves are gone. Any suggestions on how to discourage the cardinals from eating my plants?


1. Move the plants or

2. Move the bird feeder

Okay, not funny. But, really, once a bird or animal has zeroed in on a plant he likes, they will continue to eat it. But, we frankly can't see what the attraction would be, maybe nesting material? A nice deep purple wall decoration in the baby bird nursery?  Tradescantia pallida cultivar "Purpurea." sometimes sold as "Purple Heart," is native to Mexico from Tamaulipas to Yucatan, and therefore not in our Native Plant Database. But from what we could find out, it doesn't look like the plant is in any danger of being wiped out by the birds; apparently, it is vigorous to the point of being extremely invasive in some cases, and just a bit of stem dropped on the ground will sprout. Even though it is non-native, if the plant will grow under Juniperus ashei (Ashe's juniper) (lots of plants won't) and you like the area for your bird feeder, we would say let things be. If the plant starts to fade away, we would be more likely to blame the shade from the cedar than the attacks from the birds.


More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Native grasses for chain link fenceline in Nash, TX
April 29, 2009 - I have chain link fence all the way around my yard and I am getting tired of having to weed eat along the fence line. I am looking for some type of year round decorative plant or grass (preferably on...
view the full question and answer

Is there any bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum) in Austin, TX
August 10, 2011 - Hi there! Can you tell me if there is any Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum) growing in the Austin area? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Native grasses for wood planter box in Houston
August 04, 2011 - Hi, I'm making a long wood planter box/bench for my wood deck. The area gets direct sun only in the late afternoon/evening and the deck serves as a play space for our one-year old son. I'd like to...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover Planting in Shiro TX
July 09, 2015 - I have been collecting seeds from White Avens and Texas Sedge to use as ground covers. What is the optimal time to plant these seeds? We have been experiencing heavy rains in our area lately, so I am ...
view the full question and answer

Water eroding corner in Austin
October 25, 2011 - I live close to the Wildflower Center. My yard slopes - as do my neighbors' yards to one corner in my yard. The result is constant moisture in one corner. The rest of the yard is caliche, rocks (m...
view the full question and answer

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