Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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

Damage to ruellia in Monroe LA
October 26, 2009 - I have hundreds of Ruellia Brittoniana. Dwarf Katie White, Katie Blue and Katie Pink. I am finding holes in some of the leaves, Some just have notches chewed out of them. Some of the leaves have...
view the full question and answer

Erosion control in West Union IA
June 22, 2010 - Erosion control and native grasses/plants for steep, shady slope in northeast Iowa. We are building a house in northeast Iowa (near West Union in Fayette County). The road that was graded to the ho...
view the full question and answer

Annual plants for weed control in Pflugerville,TX?
September 14, 2010 - Can you suggest an annual or summer-dormant plant to mix with Dalea frutescens? The object is to discourage the spring-emerging weeds that precede the leafing out of the Dalea, so it should finish bl...
view the full question and answer

Need plants to replace cedars on a 40 degree slope in Boerne, TX.
August 28, 2012 - My backyard is a roughly 40 degree slope that is covered with cedars. The slope is basically all rock, what can I grow here to replace the cedar which drink too much water. I would still like the area...
view the full question and answer

Restoration of mistflowers suffering from wet season
June 27, 2007 - I have planted gregg's mistflower in a bed that receives morning sun and afternoon semi-shade. It was beautiful and covered with blooms and butterflies this spring, but suddenly has become brown and ...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.