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?


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 - June 21, 2010

From: Bastrop, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Poisonous Plants, Groundcovers
Title: Pet-friendly plants for ground cover in Bastrop TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Any pet-friendly plants that can be used for ground-cover in Central Texas?


Friendly to the plants or friendly to the pets? If you're talking friendly to pets, those pets being cats and/or dogs, we can probably find some for you and check websites with lists of poisonouse plants to make sure they are safe for those animals. If you have a pet giraffe, that's out of our line. If you're wanting plants which will be okay with constant dog traffic, puppy chewing and kitty bathroom use, that is a much tougher sell.

There are low-growing groundcovers native to Central Texas that will do what their name says, cover the ground. They won't necessarily be evergreen, most don't tolerate much foot traffic (or paw traffic) and some are considered as weeds, possibly by your neighbors. And without knowing if your area has sun or shade, what the soil is like and whether it can be irrigated also makes it difficult for us to pick the perfect plant. We don't think cats often eat plants outside, although they will chew on indoor plants, many of which are poisonous  non-natives, so be aware of that. 

We will check some databases for the groundcovers we find, but just the fact that a plant is not on a list won't guarantee that it does not have some toxic parts.  There are several databases to consult for plant toxicity.  The ASPCA has a list specific to dogs, Toxic and Non-toxic Plant List—Dogs. There are several others that we use, as well:


Toxic Plants of Texas 

Poisonous Plants of North Carolina

Cornell University Plants Poisonous to Livestock

University of Pennsylvania Poisonous Plants

Canadian Poisonous Plants Information System

None of these plants we are going to list appeared on any of the above lists. Follow the plant links to each page in our Native Plant Database to find out what growing conditions that plant needs, such as light requirements, moisture, soil and how big it is expected to be. 

Groundcovers for Central Texas:

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow)

Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida (Dakota mock vervain)

Oenothera speciosa (pinkladies)

Oenothera macrocarpa ssp. macrocarpa (bigfruit evening-primrose)

Phlox drummondii (annual phlox)

Salvia roemeriana (cedar sage)

Hydrocotyle umbellata (manyflower marshpennywort)

Phyla nodiflora (turkey tangle fogfruit)

Dichondra argentea (silver ponysfoot)

Dichondra carolinensis (Carolina ponysfoot)

Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox)

Phlox pilosa (downy phlox)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Callirhoe involucrata

Glandularia bipinnatifida var. bipinnatifida

Oenothera speciosa

Oenothera macrocarpa ssp. macrocarpa

Phlox drummondii

Salvia roemeriana

Hydrocotyle umbellata

Phyla nodiflora

Dichondra argentea

Dichondra carolinensis

Phlox divaricata

Phlox pilosa








More Groundcovers Questions

Pet Friendly Groundcovers for CA
January 23, 2016 - I am looking for pet friendly, groundcover plants in San Jose, CA.
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for steep slope under large oak in East Texas
May 17, 2009 - I live in Longview and have a slope on the west side of my house that is eroding. There is a large 18-20 y-o oak tree that shades half the slope. The slope itself is too steep to safely/easily mow. ...
view the full question and answer

Dying non-native St. Augustine grass from Austin
May 02, 2013 - Although we all know St. Augustine grass is not a good thing, I am stuck with it and am trying to save areas that appear to have take-all fungus. I have done much reading online and have tried peat m...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for Bonsall, CA
October 17, 2012 - I live in Bonsall, CA. (San Diego) I have 3 acres, flat and sloped that are graded dirt. (DG and sheep poop from previous owner). It is getting close to mud season and I'd like to plant winter cover...
view the full question and answer

Ground cover for under a maple tree in DE
December 22, 2010 - In my front yard in Newark, Delaware, I have a HUGE maple tree that shades the whole yard and most of its roots are visible and make the yard very "bumpy." Consequently, grass does not grow well the...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center