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 - August 09, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Transplants, Shrubs
Title: Flowering evergreen shrubs for sun in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I am looking for a flowering evergreen shrubs that can take all afternoon sun(on the west side of our house. Preferably 2ft high and 2 ft wide. I had planted a few Salvia Greggii(Autumn Sage) which on paper was a perfect plant for my requirements, but it has been wilting and getting crispy since the temperatures have gone up to normal summer time levels. Any suggestions? Thanks.


This sounds like transplant shock, where a plant is unable to adjust to the conditions in which it is being grown. The first thing we need to ask is when did you plant it? Perennials like Salvia greggii (autumn sage) should be planted in late Fall or early Spring, to give their little rootlets time to adjust to the soil and start pulling nutrients in for the plant, as the roots and the plant grow. If it was planted in the Summer, even though the early part of the season was relatively cool, that is still a shock for the plant. The other thing we are wondering is if you prepared the soil for good drainage. Below are the Growing Conditions for this plant:

"Water Use: Low

Light Requirement: Sun

Soil Moisture: Dry
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained, rocky soils, usually limestone of greater or lesser organic content. Also in sands and loams.
Conditions Comments: Autumn sage must have a well-drained site and cannot take shrink-swell clay soils. In clay soils, work in organic matter and amendments to improve drainage and, if possible, plant on a slope. Though generally cold tolerant, will be deciduous in regions with extremely cold winters, though some cultivars do well even in Oklahoma and Colorado, well outside of its natural range. Avoid planting it near heavy foot traffic because the stems are very brittle."

Much of Austin is underlaid by clay soil, and without working in some organic matter, the plant simply cannot access the nutrients it needs from the soil. Also, when we say "sun" for light requirements, we are talking about 6 or more hours of sun a day. Two to six hours of sun is considered "part shade."

If you feel you need to replace the salvia, dig it up and get compost worked into the ground now, but don't plant a replacement now. Wrong time.  We will suggest a few shrubs that can tolerate sun, including trying again on the Salvia Greggii, but wait to purchase the plants until you are ready to put them in the ground, not in the summer, and make sure the soil has increased drainage.  Also, asking for both flowering and evergreen severely limits the possibilities. Some plants that are native to this area and are evergreen have very small, insignificant flowers. Some plants that have showy flowers are deciduous. Follow each plant link to our page on that shrub to determine its expected size, bloom time and color, and whether it is evergreen or deciduous. 

Shrubs for Sun or Part Shade in Austin:

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Wright's desert honeysuckle)

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Chrysactinia mexicana (damianita)

Erythrina herbacea (redcardinal)

Ilex vomitoria (yaupon)

Leucophyllum frutescens (Texas barometer bush)

Mahonia swaseyi (Texas barberry)

Salvia greggii (autumn sage)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii

Callicarpa americana

Chrysactinia mexicana

Erythrina herbacea

Ilex vomitoria

Leucophyllum frutescens

Mahonia swaseyi

Salvia greggii






More Transplants Questions

Transplanting False Gaura in Austin
October 27, 2010 - I am transplanting my false gaura. Do they transplant well, and should I cut them back?
view the full question and answer

Transplanting live oaks in summer
July 17, 2008 - I have a need to transplant a live oak tree on a home building site. The need is now, the house is almost completely built out and the owners did not prep the site by moving trees or prepping them to ...
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in desert willow in Austin
November 09, 2011 - We planted a desert willow 5 days ago. It came in a 15-gallon pot but the tree is quite large (~10 ft) with a wide spread. We watered thoroughly during planting but have not watered since (light rai...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting blue agave pups in Arizona
February 03, 2009 - I have a blue Agave with lots of pups, how do I transplant a few pups into planters. What kind of soil and how much water will they need?
view the full question and answer

Transplant shock in Dakota mock vervain
July 23, 2007 - We just planted some Verbena bipinnatifida in our back yard and when we planted it, it had purple flowers on it but now they've all dried up. We live in central Colorado and thought this plant was fa...
view the full question and answer

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