En EspaŅol

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.
Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Monday - October 26, 2009

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Will lilacs survive in Houston?
Answered by: Anne Bossart


My wife loves the smell of Lilacs (we're originally from Oregon), but we don't see any here in Houston. Is it possible to get lilacs to survive in Southeast Texas?


The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes.
So even if lilacs could survive in Houston (they suffer badly from powdery mildew and drop their leaves when summer is hot and humid even as far north as Philadelphia), we would recommend you not plant them.  Even though they are not native to North America, they are ubiquitous in the northern states and Canada and their fragrance evokes the memory of the begining of summer to all Northerners. But the north is where they belong and where they should stay.
Lady Bird lamented "Why can't Texas look like Texas?" long before every town had a Wal-Mart, Home Depot and identical restaurant chains. As a fellow northern transplant, I understand why you would want to have a familiar friend in your garden, but I encourage you to get to know and embrace the many very special native Texas plants that will thirve in this climate, which can be quite harsh.
Although nothing can mimic a lilac's fragrance,  you might try Texas' own purple flowering, overwhelmingly fragrant harbinger of spring ... Texas Mountain Laurel.  It is native to the Hilll Country and not the Houston area so it is drought tolerant and requires good drainage.  If you decide to plant one, make sure it is sited with good drainage on a berm or in another raised area.

More Trees Questions

Stressed Ashe juniper is dropping needles
May 07, 2015 - We have a large Ashe juniper tree in our backyard, at least 20 ft tall. This past winter/spring, several limbs have died and it's dropped a ton of leaves (clumps of "needles" really). Is it slowly ...
view the full question and answer

Recently planted Chinquapin Oak with browning leaves in Marlin, TX.
July 31, 2012 - We planted a Chinquapin Oak this in March 2012. As of July 21, 2012, the tips of the leaves on the lower branches are turning brown. We cannot see any insects. There does not appear to be any fungu...
view the full question and answer

Long Island Barrier Beach Plants
April 22, 2013 - I live on the south shore of Long Island on a barrier beach and am landscaping my property as a result of Sandy damage. I am going with a sand base, and I am looking for suitable trees and shrubs for...
view the full question and answer

Native trees for cemetery plot in Karnes County, TX
April 08, 2007 - I'm looking for a tree for a cemetery plot in Karnes County at Pana Maria. There will be someone to regularly water it. I understand live oak and pecan are native to the area. I assume these would...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of one Desert Willow in Phoenix AZ
September 06, 2013 - We planted 4 desert willow trees in the summer and 3 of the 4 are doing excellent, however the last one is not not doing so well, it was the smallest of all and it started out fine but its leaves bega...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center