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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Wednesday - June 08, 2005

From: Lake Jackson, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildflowers
Title: Native Texas plants that will grow in sandy soil and salt tolerant
Answered by: Nan Hampton

QUESTION:

I am in the US Coast Guard and we are looking to plant some wildflowers. The plants will be near saltwater and may get exposed if the area floods during a tropical storm or hurricane. Being on the Gulf Coast in the city of Freeport, TX, what wildflowers will grow in this area? Also, I would like to know if bluebonnets will grow in this type of environment?

ANSWER:

If you choose plants that naturally grow along the Texas seashore your chances of success are greatly improved. You need plants that will grow in sandy soil and are salt tolerant. To learn more about those I suggest you find a copy of "Wildflowers and Other Plants of Texas Beaches and Islands" by Alfred Richardson. 2002. Austin: University of Texas Press. You could check your local library or bookstore for a copy. There are also copies available at the Wildflower Center's Wild Ideas store. You can reach them by telephone at 1-877-945-3357.

Now for suggestions, we can start with a couple of plants that are salt tolerant: 1) Coralbean (Erythrina herbacea), a shrub-like plant with beautiful red flowers, and 2) Sea Ox-eye (Borrichia frutescens) with yellow daisy-like flowers.

Then, there are those wildflowers whose common names indicate that they can flourish on the coast: 1) Sea Purslane (Sesuvium portulacastrum), 2) Beach morning glory (Ipomoea imperati), 3) Salt-marsh morning glory (Ipomoea sagittata), 4) Beach evening primrose (Oenothera drummondii), and 5) Seashore Mallow (Kosteletzkya virginica).

Other possibilities that do well in sandy soil are: 1) Chisme (Portulaca pilosa), 2) Partridge Pea (Chamaecrista fasciculata), 3) Retama (Parkinsonia aculeata) 4) White Gaura (Gaura lindheimeri), 5) Prairie verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida), and 6) Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides).

Three popular wildflower species grow well in sandy soil. 1) Golden-wave (Coreopsis tinctoria), 2) Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella), and 3) Black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta).

You might also consider some ornamental grasses such as 1) Sea Oats (Uniola paniculata), 2) Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium), and 3) Canada Wild Rye (Elymus canadensis).

The Sandyland bluebonnet (Lupinus subcarnosus) will grow well in sandy soil, but it is doubtful that it would do well in an area very near the coast. However, Brenda Smith in her book, Lazy Gardener's Guide, reports "profusions of bluebonnets blooming" in people's yards on the Bolivar Peninsula not too far from you. So, you might give them a try. Ms. Smith also reports other wildflowers growing along the Bolivar Peninsula that you might also consider for your garden.

For nurseries in your area that specialize in native plants, you can check National Supplers Directory.
 

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