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 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)

 

From the Image Gallery


Winecup
Callirhoe involucrata

Purple prairie verbena
Glandularia bipinnatifida

Comfortroot
Hibiscus aculeatus

Spring spiderlily
Hymenocallis liriosme

Zigzag iris
Iris brevicaulis

Mayapple
Podophyllum peltatum

Scarlet sage
Salvia coccinea

Turk's cap or turkscap
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

More Herbs/Forbs Questions

Reproducing Echinacea 'Sunbeam' from Powthan VA
August 03, 2011 - I would like to reproduce a flowering plant- Sundown echinacea. I have a plant now. Can you give me info on how to do it? thanks so much.
view the full question and answer

Transplanting Mexican bonebract in Floresville, TX
November 12, 2008 - My kids and I finally identified a small plant that we found growing in our pasture. There was only one and it is lovely. It is the Mexican Bonebract. What I am interested in finding out is how to tra...
view the full question and answer

Trimming of Flame acanthus from Bastrop TX
February 17, 2012 - My flame acanthus never lost leaves off the bottom tier of branches this winter. With the brief warm weather and rain we've had, the top and middle tier of branches have all re-leafed. It is very l...
view the full question and answer

Native alternative for liriope
September 20, 2011 - I am looking for native alternatives to liriope for use in sun to part shade, moderate moisture planting beds. Would prefer evergreen options.
view the full question and answer

Problem with Salvia Mystic Spires in Chesterfield VA
May 30, 2009 - Last August, our local Lowes had these beautiful, unusual blue perennials on the discount rack called "Salvia Mystic Spires". For 50 cents each, they looked terrific, so I bought all they had, about...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center