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 - 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



More Soils Questions

Growing Native Plants in Juniper litter from Wimberley, TX
October 04, 2010 - Junipers create an environment under their canopy that prohibits growth of other plants. I have a virgin lot that has been cleared of many juniper but has remaining heavy natural leaf mold containing...
view the full question and answer

High water table in Glewood Springs CO
March 03, 2012 - We are considering the purchase of a home in Glenwood Springs, CO (elev. Approximately 5,000 ft) and find it strange that while neighboring properties in the subdivision have beautiful landscaping wit...
view the full question and answer

Detoxifying soil from York England
August 15, 2012 - How do you neutralize toxic soil, it may have been contaminated by Foxglove Digitalis Purpurea? Thankyou
view the full question and answer

Soil for Emory Oak from Dripping Springs, TX
April 15, 2012 - I bought an Emory Oak today at the Wildflower Center's plant sale. Upon reading about it when I got home, I see "it won't grow in alkaline soils." I was hoping to plant it in the riparian area ...
view the full question and answer

Foundation Plants for South Carolina
November 07, 2009 - What native plants are suitable as foundation plantings? My soil is heavy clayey loam with red clay subsoil. I live in Charleston County.
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