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?

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

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

Thursday - June 25, 2009

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant
Title: Shade groundcover under Magnolia in Austin, Texas
Answered by: Jackie OKeefe

QUESTION:

I have a 50' Magnolia grandiflora casting full shade underneath with very shallow and some exposed roots. I have Horseherb (calyptocarpus vialis)in the area and have been encouraging it to spread under the Magnolia but so far it has not made much progress. In addition to the Horseherb are there any other native grasses or ground covers that will survive/thrive under this tree?

ANSWER:

Your choice of Calyptocarpus vialis (straggler daisy) for groundcover in understory shade is a good one. It spreads both by root and seed and should gradually fill the area in. It is winter-dormant, so using it in combination with some other species helps fill the gaps, so to speak. We have several suggestions.

Achillea millefolium (common yarrow) – I've seen this plant do surprisingly well in fairly shady sites. It doesn't bloom, or doesn't bloom much, as shade deepens, but it provides winter greenery and an attractive texture. It spreads by root and seed. In hot, dry settings, extra summer water is appreciated, but in the shade it will likely pull through on its own, although it may become semi-dormant at this time.

Salvia lyrata (lyreleaf sage) – This is one tough and adaptable little plant. It thrives in shade and survives pretty large doses of sun. It WILL spread, mainly by seed, but also by root division. The rosette remains green all winter. The distinctive marking on the leaf – shaped like a lyre! – is distinguishing. The plant also tolerates both wet and dry conditions. Flower color seems to vary with seasonal climatic variations, one year quite periwinkle blue, another year paler and less conspicuous. Deadheading the spent spikes may be desireable for appearance.

Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata (heartleaf skullcap) – Another evergreen herbaceous perennial, this plant spreads by seed, but even more by root. It can be somewhat summer-dormant. This plant does become 1 to 3 feet tall.

Salvia coccinea (blood sage) – Scarlet or Tropical Sage does okay in shade and would be a pretty accent to other plants. Regular and fairly drastic pruning will keep it dense and promote repeat flowering.

Carex blanda (eastern woodland sedge)  – You are correct in speculating that there are sedges that can serve well as understory groundcover. This one is better adapted to shade than some other Texas natives, according to our Native Plants Database, but other possibilities are: Carex planostachys (cedar sedge),which is found under our local  Juniperus ashei (Ashe's juniper), and Carex texensis (Texas sedge).

 

 


Calyptocarpus vialis

Achillea millefolium

Salvia lyrata


Salvia coccinea

Carex blanda

Carex planostachys

Carex texensis

Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata

 

 

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Plant for total shade in Austin Texas
November 18, 2013 - Most of north wall of my house is in total shade. Is there a native that will grow there? The nonnative Cast Iron Plant is thriving and the soil is good. Your list of plants requiring 2 hours or less ...
view the full question and answer

Native violets under maples from Gettysburg PA
July 06, 2012 - Just for your info (no need to post or reply), I saw an old post of a question of something to grow under maples. In central PA, native violets grow very well under several species of maples in lawns...
view the full question and answer

Disagreement with HOA on raised beds placed beneath mature oak from Tequesta FL
April 05, 2014 - I have mature 30 year old oak trees on my property and I put a raised bed under each with very good soil and I used pavers for retaining the soil about about 1.5 ft high. I planted a perennial begonia...
view the full question and answer

Hedge for Austin
April 09, 2009 - Hi. I live in West Austin and am having trouble finding plants for our heavily shaded yard (thanks to our beautiful large live oaks). I love glossy, dark green leaves and big flowers. I love the came...
view the full question and answer

Shade tolerant plants for erosion from Austin
May 03, 2014 - I live in Austin and my house backs up to Shoal Creek. I am looking for a native creeping vine or something that will grow on the shaded bank to help prevent erosion. It should be able to tolerate the...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center