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?

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
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

Wednesday - December 02, 2009

From: San Diego, CA
Region: California
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils
Title: Area needing soil amendment in San Diego
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a dirt area in the corner where my fence comes together. The dirt is clay-like and during the winter the area gets very little, if any, sun and during the summer it gets 4-6 hours of sun. What could I grow here?

ANSWER:

We can go to our Native Plant Database and find several plants that need sun (6 hours or more of sun daily) or part shade (2 to 6 hours daily), but first we need to address the poor soil in your fence corner. While clay has nutrients in it that plants need, it compacts so readily that the tiny little rootlets on plants that are responsible for picking up nutrients and moisture from the soil cannot access them. Since it is now cooler weather and perhaps you are getting some rain, we would suggest you take the opportunity to amend your soil by digging some organic matter, like compost, into it. Really fluff it up and raise the surface level a few inches with the addition of the compost, and not only will the micro-nutrients in the soil be more available, but the drainage will improve a great deal.

Now, on to the plants. You didn't say if you wanted a flower bed, a tree, shrubs, or what, so we are going to go to Recommended Species, click on Southern California, search first on "herb" (herbaceous blooming plant) under General Appearance, then "shrub" and then "tree." You could also search on "grasses" or "cacti and succulents" for more variety. We will give you some suggestions, and you can go from there. Follow the plant links below to find out more about each plant.

Herbaceous blooming plants for Southern California:

Eschscholzia californica (California poppy) - 1 to 2 ft. tall, blooms orange, yellow, February to October, low water use, sun

Penstemon eatonii (firecracker penstemon) 2 ft. tall, blooms red May to August, low water use, part shade

Shrubs for Southern California:

Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry) - 3 to 15 ft. tall, deciduous, blooms white April to June, medium water use, sun, part shade or shade

Arctostaphylos patula (greenleaf manzanita) - 3 to 15 ft. tall, evergreen, blooms pink April to June, medium water use, sun

Trees for Southern California:

Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) - 10 to 20 ft. tall, deciduous, blooms pink, purple March and April, medium water use, sun, part shade

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) - 15 to 30 ft. tall, deciduous, blooms white, pink, purple April to September, low water use, sun

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Eschscholzia californica

Penstemon eatonii

Amelanchier alnifolia

Arctostaphylos patula

Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Chilopsis linearis

 

 

 

More Soils Questions

Chlorine tolerant plants for planters near pool in Florida
June 01, 2010 - I am looking for planting ideas for two planters next to our hot tub/pool. Plants need to withstand chlorine from pool, not attract bees, and take full sun. We are in South Florida. The planters ar...
view the full question and answer

How does Habiturf spread from Walburg TX
May 19, 2014 - How does HabitTurf spread? - by seed only? - when/how often must you let it go to seed to insure a permanent stand?
view the full question and answer

Native plants for poorly drained clay soil
March 24, 2008 - I am trying to establish a native plant garden in my back yard, I have two places where water stands for a few hours after a heavy rain, and the soil is black clay. Can you recommend any perennials 3...
view the full question and answer

Agarita suggestion for Houston area
March 05, 2013 - Another possible plant for the following question is agarita. The question: "Looking for a very, very, thorny three or four foot tall shrub for in front of windows to deter break-ins. Considering Ro...
view the full question and answer

Erosion at edge of driveway in Abilene TX
August 26, 2011 - My lawn suffered a great loss of grass over the winter and the soil at the edge of the driveway is washing away with watering and the occasional rains that we have. I am trying to get the grass to gr...
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 | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center