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
1 rating

Monday - February 08, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Small shrub with thorns for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I'm looking for a shade-tolerant 2-3' shrub with thorns, native to Texas (ideally central Texas) - an alternative to Barberry? Does such a plant exist?

ANSWER:

If your question is: "Is there a  plant native to Central Texas with burgundy leaves, growing to 2-3 ft. tall and thorns?" The answer is no. If your question is: "How can I create a barrier to keep out small animals or children?" The answer is yes, but none of them fill all your conditions perfectly. And, finally, if you are saying "I need a low-growing hedge that is deer resistant," we can help you with that, too. There is not one plant that covers all those needs, so we'll see what we can find. All of these plants will tolerate part shade, which we consider to be 2 to 6 hours of sun a day. 

For a short living barrier: A shrub that short is something of a challenge to begin with, but the thorns are just not there. There is one shrub native to Central Texas, Mahonia trifoliolata (agarita), that does not have thorns but really stickery leaves. It ordinarily grows from 3 to 6 feet, but could be kept trimmed to size. It is evergreen and very hardy, with low watering needs.  You might consider some of the succulents like agaves, or low-growing sharp-edged grasses. Agave parryi ssp. neomexicana (Parry's agave) and Agave havardiana (Havard's century plant), both of which grow in the Austin area, are actually native to the  Big Bend area. They have formidable thorns on them, and will grow to about the height you are asking for. However, we ordinarily recommend that these plants not be placed where children or pets might stumble into them, as they could be seriously hurt. A grass-like plant, Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista), is evergreen, grows 1 to 6 ft. tall. The word "sacahuista" is derived from two Aztec words meaning "thorn grass." Another plant in the same genus, Nolina lindheimeriana (devil's shoestring), has finely serrated teeth on the leaves. Both are native to the Austin area.

If you are searching for something the deer won't eat unless they are very hungry, which is usually, take a look at our Deer-Resistant Species. By going there and searching on Texas, "sub-shrub" for General Appearance,  and "part shade" for Light Requirements," we found 1 plant that fit that description.  Jatropha dioica (leatherstem) apparently has an astringent sap that deer don't care for. Doing the same search, but with "shrub" under General Appearance, we found a list of 43, some of which are repetitions of some of those we have already mentioned. Two more plants from that list coming closest to your requirements are:

Cylindropuntia imbricata var. imbricata (tree cholla) - a tough, thorny plant, growing 3 to 8 ft.

Larrea tridentata (creosote bush) -3 to 5 ft., aromatic leaves

Follow the links to our webpages on each plant to learn more about it. We should caution you that if you are looking for a deer barrier, they will snicker behind their hooves if you expect to keep them out with a hedge 3 ft. tall. Even a very small fawn can leap over that and go on to chow down on the more palatable goodies in your garden.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery: 


Mahonia trifoliolata

Agave parryi ssp. neomexicana

Agave havardiana

Nolina texana

Nolina lindheimeriana

Jatropha dioica

Cylindropuntia imbricata var. imbricata

Larrea tridentata

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Book on blueberry bushes in Tennessee
February 18, 2009 - I'm looking for a book titled "Planting blueberry bushes in Tennessee" by an author I can't remember the name of. Have you heard of this book an do you know where one could find a copy? The autho...
view the full question and answer

Short evergreen shrub for Virginia
April 10, 2009 - I have been looking everywhere for an evergreen shrub that is 3-4 ft. in height, non-poisonous to humans, and that thrives in zone 7 to no avail. Please help!
view the full question and answer

Evergreen shrubs for hedge in a Memorial Garden
June 07, 2008 - Can you recommend some drought tolerant, low maintenance, evergreen shrubs that would be suitable as a hedge for a Memorial Garden? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in Vacccinum corymbosum (highbush blueberry)
June 28, 2007 - Blueberry plants - We planted Northland and Blue Crop, 2 of each. All 4 plants have some leaves that are turning brown. This starts at the tip of the leaf, eventually encompasses the entire leaf, a...
view the full question and answer

Privacy Hedge for Maryland Porch
July 03, 2014 - I am working on a screen/fence, which is a barrier hedge between our house and our next door neighbor's house to add privacy to our screen porch and dining area, especially in winter. The fence would...
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.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center