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

Sunday - August 22, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Watering
Title: Patio plants suffering from heat in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

My patio plants are burning up from the intense sun of Austin's August. Last year it even burned the leaves. Besides moving 40 plants to a shadier spot do you have suggestions on how to protect them? Would tomato netting help?

ANSWER:

Forty?! You moved 40 plants to a shadier spot? How many did you not move? How big a patio do you have? We have had gardens where we planted in the actual ground in the past, and we had lots of plants, but they had their roots in the cooling, nourishing earth. Our "garden" now is a 6' x 12' porch, that gets intense sun in the afternoon this time of year, and no sun in the winter. We have about 20 small, climate-adapted plants out there, in terra cotta pots, which help to keep the soil cool. When something starts to curl its leaves and shrivel, even with daily watering, it gets eliminated. People like us who have to have container gardens to have any garden at all must adapt to that. Planting native plants that are accustomed by eons of experience to the local conditions is a good start. Exotic plants, shade plants, delicate plants are probably not equipped to handle those conditions. Texas summer is brutal, and when the leaves start to curl, it's because they are trying to conserve the water that is leaving them because of transpiration. Think about it, how would you like to have your feet stuck in a teeny tiny pot and spend all your time out in the blazing sun, without a drink of water?

So, the moral is: Be more selective. Don't think you can plant anything you happen to like in those conditions. Plastic pots and even glazed pots can really collect the heat, while the evaporation through the sides of terra cotta pots is a cooling process for the soil. Read our How-To Articles A Guide to Native Plant Gardening and Container Gardening with Native Plants for some guidelines.

Since we don't know if you have predominantly sun or shade, whether you want annuals or perennials, or if there are special effects you like, we are not going to try to recommend specific plants. Rather, we recommend you go to our Recommended Species section, click on Central Texas on the map and then, using the sidebar on the right side, specify if you want herbs (herbaceous blooming plants), annuals or perennials, shade, sun and so forth. You can also look at grasses, shrubs and succulents. Always look at the page in our website on that particular plant to make sure it suits your purposes in terms of light, size and care requirements. And to answer your question, no, we don't think tomato screening would serve the purpose and don't think it would be very attractive, either. After all, you have your patio garden to have pleasant views of your garden, don't you?

 

More Container Gardens Questions

Plants for a nursing home resident from LaQuinta CA
July 26, 2013 - I take care of an elderly woman with dementia. She is in a nursing home and she's always LOVES flowers and plants. Do you have any suggestions for potted outdoor blooming plants for the summer in...
view the full question and answer

Screening Planter Recommendations for Lakeway TX
May 16, 2012 - I live in Lakeway in a townhome. The parking lot is directly in front of my unit so I always see headlights and cars. The HOA has agreed to build a planter about 4 feet high to help hide the cars. W...
view the full question and answer

Darkened leaves on blueberry bush
July 02, 2008 - I have a blueberry bush planted in a very large pot. It has been doing very well, producing berries and new growth. All of a sudden the leaves have begun to turn dark. I have it potted in good soil...
view the full question and answer

Protecting hibiscus from cold in Eastern Washington State
July 28, 2006 - I recently purchased a Hibiscus Brilliant Red. I planted it in an area of my garden that will give it full sun for most of the day. In the Pacific Northwest where I live (Eastern Washington) it can ge...
view the full question and answer

Planting plumereia and bird of paradise palm outside in Austin
May 23, 2007 - I have a plumeria and a bird of paradise palm in pots that I want to place in the ground. I've seen plumeria's planted in the ground at a house leading to Bryan College Station that seem to have bee...
view the full question and answer

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