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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.

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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 - August 19, 2009

From: San Antonio, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Shrubs
Title: Fragrant native plants for San Antonio, TX
Answered by: Amy Johnson

QUESTION:

I live in San Antonio, Texas, and I am re-landscaping my backyard after my dog ate some of the beautiful blooming oleander and had to spend some time at the vet's. My backyard is my sanctuary, and it would be wonderful if it would smell like one as well. It gets full sun and I do have an adjustable watering system. Currently, I have some banana trees, 2 pampas grasses that need something between them, and an 8 foot tall magnolia tree with beautiful white blooms. I am having a hard time finding 2 different types of fragrant flora to fill these voids: a perennial shrub, 4-5 feet in maturity, that blooms year round of any color. I am also looking for a fast growing perennial vine that takes full sun, also with blooms of any color. My mother is a master gardener, and she was telling me of a plant called 'Stalk' that she says has the most beautiful smell. However, when I try to look up 'Stalk' on your database, well, you can only imagine that I get many hits. Is this mysterious ‘Stalk’ a vine or a shrub? Does it take full sun, or could it even survive here on the face of the sun? I do hope that you can help.

ANSWER:

First let me address the second part of your question.  I believe your mother was most likely referring to Stock, a flowering annual with a sweet scent.  Its easy to see why you might think she meant "Stalk".  Since Stock is not a native to either this area or North America in general, you will not find it in our database.  Keep in mind that since it is an annual, you would likely need to plant it every year, unless it "re-seeds" itself by being allowed to drop seeds and return the following year from new plants.

You will probably not be able to find any shrubs that bloom for the entire year, but Feather Dalea Dalea formosa (featherplume) does bloom for a long time, April through October.  Both Feather and Black Dalea Dalea frutescens (black prairie clover), Texas Mock Orange Philadelphus texensis (Texas mock orange), Woods Rose Rosa woodsii (Woods' rose), Cherry Sage Salvia greggii (autumn sage) and Mountain Sage Salvia regla (mountain sage) are fragrant native shrubs, and Mapleleaf Viburnum Viburnum acerifolium (mapleleaf viburnum) is a nice native shrub as well, though probably not that fragrant - all these shrubs are approximately the height you were looking for as well. 

Your best bets for fragrant vines in full sun are Honeysuckle Lonicera albiflora (western white honeysuckle) or Lonicera sempervirens (trumpet honeysuckle), Climbing Prairie Rose Rosa setigera (climbing rose) and Texas Wisteria (start this vine from a cutting to ensure blooms without waiting up to a decade) Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria)

To add a bit more fragrance to your garden, you can also add such flowers as Brownfoot Acourtia wrightii (brownfoot), Wild Blue Hyacinth (best planted in groups) Camassia scilloides (Atlantic camas), Hill Country Rain Lily Cooperia pedunculata (prairie lily), Liatris Liatris mucronata (cusp blazing star), Barbara's Buttons Marshallia caespitosa (puffballs), Blackfoot Daisy Melampodium leucanthum (plains blackfoot), Beebalm Monarda fistulosa (wild bergamot), or Fragrant Phlox Phlox pilosa (downy phlox), or for some color without as much fragrance, Missouri Blue Star Amsonia illustris (Ozark bluestar), Cardinal Flower Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower), or one of many native Penstemons Penstemon ambiguus (gilia beardtongue), Penstemon cobaea (cobaea beardtongue), Penstemon tenuis (sharpsepal beardtongue), or Penstemon triflorus (Heller's beardtongue).  These are all nice native perennials, which means they will come back each year.

You can browse through the pictures of the plants listed here below, and once you've decided which ones will be best for your backyard sanctuary, you can check out suppliers of these plants in your area by browsing at this link: http://www.wildflower.org/suppliers/.

We recommend using native plants for many reasons, but the three most important are probably that native plants do well where they are native, usually require little maintenance, and do the best job of supporting local wildlife.  With so many wonderful native plants to choose from in Texas, it's hard to imagine a reason not to go native!


Dalea formosa

Dalea frutescens

Philadelphus texensis

Rosa woodsii

Salvia greggii

Salvia regla

Viburnum acerifolium

Lonicera albiflora

Lonicera sempervirens

Rosa setigera

Wisteria frutescens

Acourtia wrightii

Camassia scilloides

Cooperia pedunculata

Liatris mucronata

Marshallia caespitosa

Melampodium leucanthum

Monarda fistulosa

Phlox pilosa

Amsonia illustris

Lobelia cardinalis

Penstemon ambiguus

Penstemon cobaea

Penstemon tenuis

Penstemon triflorus
 

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