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Monday - February 08, 2010

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Soils, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Soil for native Chilopsis linearis and Salvia greggii
Answered by: Jackie OKeefe


I want to plant a desert willow and a salvia greggii in my small lot. The developer used sandy loam to fill in the small garden in the front. I am 73 and a bit impaired. Do I really need to remove all that loam and replace it, or can I just put good soil on top of it and plant? I assume that my sacks of Garden Soil from Miracle Grow are not going to get it. What should I use?


Salvia greggii (autumn sage) and Chilopsis linearis (desert willow) are great choices for a Central Texas landscape. Both of these species need well-drained soil and sunny conditions. Since developers use the term "sandy loam" without much reference to the soil's genuine qualities, we can't accurately assess your soil from a verbal description. The native plants you've chosen are adapted to thrive in Central Texas soils, but if you want to make an informed judgement, here are a couple of suggestions for evaluating your sandy loam. To determine your soil's drainage properties take a look at this article on The Georgia Gardener website for testing water percolation. Soil testing is available through Texas Agrilife - the Texas A&M Extension Service. Texas soils tend to be low in organic matter, and working in some compost may be all you want to do. If you decide that you need to add topsoil, some of it should be worked into the existing soil to help the roots transition from one layer to the next. We don't advise on brands of soil to use, but one of the reasons to plant natives is that they DON'T need all the fertilizer that lots of bagged garden soils feature.

Here is a link to the Wildflower Center's article on gardening with native plants that may have some other helpful information. When putting your plants in, make sure they aren't planted deeper than the soil level, and when mulching, leave a few inches of open space around the base of the plant.

Salvia greggii

Chilopsis linearis



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