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?


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

Wednesday - June 09, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Cacti and Succulents
Title: Succulents, wildflowers and grasses for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I live on a bluff over Lake Travis and am replanting two beds in front of my driveway with Mexican Feathergrass and Agave. What other grasses or wildflowers could I mix in with the Mexican Feathergrass? Ideally I would like the Mexican Feathergrass to be dominant to achieve the soft full breezy effect. Around and beneath the Agaves I would like to plant flowering Cacti and succulents. Currently I am considering Barrel Cacti and Black Lace Cacti. Will these grow together well?


The best way to determine if those will all grow well together is to examine the growing conditions each needs. To do this, we will go to our Native Plant Database and search on each plant. There are 14 agaves native to North America and 9 native to Texas, so we will just choose one as an example.

Nassella tenuissima (finestem needlegrass)

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Moist , Dry
Soil Description: Well-drained, acid or calcareous sands, loams, or clays.
Conditions Comments: Requires good drainage and cant take excessive moisture. Should not be watered heavily more than once a week. Goes dormant during drought and in winter. May rot under heavy mulch. Grows well in containers.

Agave americana (American century plant)

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam, Clay Loam, Clay, Rocky Soil
Conditions Comments: American century plant is large beautiful agave with sharp leaf tip spines. It is prominent in the landscape and best used in mass or as focal point. It also does well in pot (large) culture. It benefits from some extra moisture in very dry conditions, but is very tolerant of heat and xeric conditions. It can take light shade better than some other agaves. But should be protected from teen winter temperatures to avoid damage.

Ferocactus wislizeni (candy barrelcactus) - be sure and read the whole page in our database about this plant; our information is that it is a rare cactus and grows quite large

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Sandy or gravelly soils.

Echinocereus reichenbachii (lace hedgehog cactus)-According to this Texas Parks and Wildlife website, this plant is also endangered

Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: well drained gravelly clay, rock outcropping with soil pockets, caliche

Obviously, we want to discourage digging up any endangered or threatened plant to move it into your garden. Also, you should be sure, if you have seen it available in retail, that it has been collected from farms for raising it and not taken from the wild. There is always the possibility that the common names in our database and those used by plant retailers are different. For instance, there are 3 other cacti in the Ferocactus genus that might be mistaken for the endangered one. You might check out the webpages on Ferocactus cylindraceus (California barrel cactus) aznd Ferocactus cylindraceus var. cylindraceus (California barrel cactus), both native to California, and Ferocactus hamatacanthus (turk's head), native to Texas. Or, in the echinocereus genus, there is Echinocereus reichenbachii ssp. reichenbachii (lace hedgehog cactus), which is native to Texas, smaller than the other and not indicated to be threatened. 

For your other questions, on succulents and wildflowers for your garden, we will pick a few suggestions and you can follow the links to go to each webpage and learn their growing conditions. We have chosen these because they tolerate the same conditions as the other plants you have chosen, and are native to Central Texas. 

Succulents for Austin: only 3 in our database listed as native to Texas

Hesperaloe parviflora (redflower false yucca)

Yucca rupicola (Texas yucca)

Yucca thompsoniana (Thompson's yucca)

Grasses for Austin:

Dasylirion texanum (Texas sotol)

Muhlenbergia lindheimeri (Lindheimer's muhly)

Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista)

Annual Wildflowers for Austin:

Amblyolepis setigera (huisache daisy)

Centaurea americana (American star-thistle)


From the Image Gallery

Mexican feathergrass
Nassella tenuissima

American century plant
Agave americana

Candy barrel
Ferocactus wislizeni

Lace hedgehog cactus
Echinocereus reichenbachii

California barrel cactus
Ferocactus cylindraceus

California barrel cactus
Ferocactus cylindraceus var. cylindraceus

Turk's head
Ferocactus hamatacanthus

Lace cactus
Echinocereus reichenbachii ssp. reichenbachii

Red yucca
Hesperaloe parviflora

Twistleaf yucca
Yucca rupicola

Thompson's yucca
Yucca thompsoniana

Texas sotol
Dasylirion texanum

More Cacti and Succulents Questions

Skin Reaction form Cochineal on Prickly Pear
February 16, 2015 - I have severe burning and peeling skin on pads of fingers after touching "white stuff" on a prickly pear. White stuff tuned purple then burned skin even after washing hands. Skin has been cracking a...
view the full question and answer

Need to have an Agave plant removed in Austin, TX.
July 01, 2015 - I was wondering where or who could I have come to my business and buy my century agave plant. As it is growing crazy and we would like it removed.
view the full question and answer

How to remove plume from Yucca elephantipes in NJ?
August 02, 2011 - In Manahawkin, NJ, how do we cut plume (2" diameter) off 10' Yucca elephantipes?
view the full question and answer

Agave with large stem growing
May 01, 2011 - It is a large stem growing from my agave plant in the middle of it. It looks scary and ugly, what is it? Is it poisonous? Is it rare? It gets taller and taller everyday, what to cut it.
view the full question and answer

Taking down a Century Plant blooming stalk from Fair Oaks Branch TX
August 09, 2013 - Our century cactus looks like it's in the final stages of blooming and I read on your site that the original plant dies. Can we go ahead and cut down the tall blooms?
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.
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center