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Tuesday - March 23, 2010

From: Fort Worth, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Shade Tolerant, Shrubs
Title: Native shrubs or ground cover for north-facing landscape in Ft. Worth
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Need native plant ideas for a landscaping bed against the house facing north. Already has 1 Beautyberry but two others died of root rot last year due to incredibly high water table in our area. Old neighborhood 1940's and drainage not perfect. Prefer shrub ideas or ground cover please. Thank you!

ANSWER:

If your bed faces north, and another house is relatively close to it, we will assume that you need plants for shade or part shade. However, before we talk about specific plants, could we discuss the wet soil problems you are having? There is really no point in spending the resources to plant other plants in an area that has already proven to be problematic because of water standing on the roots.The first thing we would suggest is improving the drainage in that bed. We can certainly recommend some plants that tolerate wet feet, but you will have much better success and more range of choice if you improve the soil. It really isn't any big deal, depending on the circumstances. Is the bed directly under a roof where the water comes down in sheets on the bed when it rains? You might consider some guttering or at least putting sturdier shrubs in that space. Is it just a low spot where water naturally drains into it? Many raised beds have frameworks around them, but you can likely make do by just mixing better dirt into what is there, both raising the level and increasing the capacity for drainage. You probably have clay soil, which absorbs moisture, swells up and doesn't permit oxygen and nutrients to get to the plant roots growing in that clay.

The first, best move is to work a lot of compost or other organic material (not peat moss, please) into the selected areas. Compost is like a wonder drug; it adds nutrients to the soil, it helps make trace minerals in the soil available to the plant roots and, most important, it keeps the roots from drowning because of water standing on them. Raised beds are another possibility; read this article from Popular Mechanics magazine, How to Build and Install Raised Garden Beds.

Now we'll go to our Recommended Species, click on North Central Texas on the map, first selecting  on "shrubs" under General Appearance or Habit, "shade" and "part shade" under Light Requirements and "moist" under Soil Moisture and click on "Narrow Your Search." This produced a list of 9 shrubs, one of which was Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry), so if you correct your drainage, you might  consider planting more of these. The next search, click again on North Central Texas, but this time look at "herbs" (herbaceous flowering plants) under "Habit", and repeat the other characteristics. With this search, we obtained 11 possibilities, none of which you could really characterize as ground covers, but we will list some you might use. We would like to propose one more possibility - there are some wonderful native grasses that can tolerate moist soil and part shade, are good-looking a lot of the year, low maintenance and self-propagating. We chose three of these to recommend, all of which grow natively in the Tarrant County area. You can repeat these searches, using other criteria than those we have used and find other plants that might suit you better. Follow every plant link to the page on that individual plant to learn more about it.

Shrubs for Moist Shade in Ft. Worth:

Amorpha fruticosa (desert false indigo) - 6 to 10 ft. tall, deciduous, blooms orange, blue, purple, violet April to June, low water use, sun to part shade

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Wright's desert honeysuckle) - 3-5 ft.,deciduous, blooms red, orange June to October, low water use, sun or part shade, attracts hummingbirds and butterflies

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) - 3 to 5 ft., blooms white, pink May to July, low water use, part shade

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon) - 12 to 25 ft., evergreen, blooms white April and May, low water use, sun, part shade or shade

Mahonia trifoliolata (agarita) - 3 to 6 ft., evergreeen, blooms yellow February to April, low water use, sun or part shade

Herbaceous Plants for Moist Shade in Ft. Worth:

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow) mat up to 1 ft. tall, semi-evergreen, blooms white, pink, purple March to June, medium water use, sun or part shade

Conoclinium coelestinum (blue mistflower) - to 3 ft., blooms blue, purple July to November, medium water use, sun or part shade, attracts butterflies

Coreopsis tinctoria (golden tickseed) - 1-2 ft. annual, blooms yellow, brown April to June, high water use, sun or part shade

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower) - 1 to 6 ft., deciduous, blooms red May to October, low water use, sun, part shade or shade

Grasses for Moist Shade in Ft. Worth:

Andropogon gerardii (big bluestem) - 4-8 ft., medium water use, sun or part shade

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats) - 2-4 ft., deciduous, medium water use, part shade or shade

Bouteloua curtipendula (sideoats grama) - Texas State Grass, 2-3 ft/. medium water use, sun or part shade

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Callicarpa americana

Amorpha fruticosa

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii

Ilex vomitoria

Mahonia trifoliolata

Callirhoe involucrata

Conoclinium coelestinum

Coreopsis tinctoria

Lobelia cardinalis

Chasmanthium latifolium

Bouteloua curtipendula

Andropogon gerardii

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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