En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
1 rating

Monday - February 22, 2010

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Plants for a mixed border in Houston
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I live in Houston and have a flowerbed I'd like to fill with plants that will look good year-round. The back is already lined with 6-foot shrubs so nothing like that. I'd like something with colorful foliage or foliage that has an interesting texture. Flowering isn't important. The bed gets a lot of shade except for a few hours of hard sun in the late afternoon. Any ideas?

ANSWER:

That is a bit of a tall order, asking for plants that will look good year round (but it is what all Texas gardenenrs are "shooting for").  Even though Houston has a pretty warm climate, there is a winter.  That means herbaceous plants which are native to your area, will have a dormant period (even if they do not die back to the ground) when they do not look so great.  Also, most of the plants which come to mind when you say "colorful foliage" are exotic or non-native (and not as cold hardy as our native plants). You will have to rely on your evergreen shrubs to keep things going for you through the winter and lower your expectations somewhat for the flowerbed.

That is not to say that you cannot have a border that is attractive and interesting.  By choosing plants with contrasting textures (for instance, a fine textured low groundcover with a clump of spider lily growing out of it) your flower bed would be quite interesting to look at.  Have a look at our native plant database Recommended Species for East Texas and then narrow your search to your shady conditions and plant requirements; you will find quite a few suggestions.  The Native Plant Society of Texas website has a Houston specific plant list which is quite comprehensive. They also have a list of recommended sources for native plants. Because Houston actually sits quite close to the intersection of "east, central and south" Texas and plants are not aware of political boundaries, you might also find plants in the local nurseries that are native to Central or South Texas that may thrive in your garden.

Here are some plants from our database that we think you might like to try.  Click on these links; they will take you to the information page for each one.  You will find links on each page to even more information such as a Google search or where you can find the plant or seed.

Perennials

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow)

Glandularia bipinnatifida (Dakota mock vervain)

Hibiscus aculeatus (comfortroot)

Hymenocallis liriosme (spring spiderlily)

Iris brevicaulis (zigzag iris)

Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)

Salvia coccinea (blood sage)

Small Shrubs

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry)

 

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Survivability of plants after freeze
December 08, 2003 - I have many beautiful plants that froze. Some were Lantana, Hummingbird Bush, Candlestick Trees, Esperanza, Some flowers, and Marigolds. I love all of my plants and flowers and I want them to grow bac...
view the full question and answer

Erosion controlling plants for a shady Minnesota lakeside
August 11, 2015 - I live about 50 yards from a lake and there is a steep embankment. Recently someone decided to cut the trees off the embankment and now the dirt is eroding off the embankment as well as off my back ya...
view the full question and answer

Is Canna glauca invasive?
June 10, 2015 - How aggressive is Canna glauca? I'm interested in planting one near a gutter downspout, but I'm afraid it will crowd out groundcovers (heartleaf skullcap and fall obedient plant) in the two location...
view the full question and answer

Is purple coneflower native to Colorado?
July 20, 2009 - I have seen the purple cone flower growing wild in Gunnison National Forest in Colorado. Is it a native to that state or has it been brought in?
view the full question and answer

Shade-loving plants for birds in New Jersey
March 25, 2013 - What native plants should I add to my property, Zone 6, to feed birds naturally? I have a heavily treed lot, so I'd like names of shade loving perennials. Seed or fruit bearing options would be gre...
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 | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center