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?

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
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

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 Watering Questions

Why are the leaves of my century plants yellowing?
June 22, 2009 - I am taking care of the Agaves (century plants) for my condo community here in Austin. They are planted in 18" or 20" pots. A couple of the plants have leaves that are yellowing around the bottom....
view the full question and answer

Watering Houseplants with Soapy Water
August 22, 2011 - I accidentally watered my house plants with a container that had a some dishsoap in it. Will they be okay? One of the plants is a 20yr old cactus, with small roots.
view the full question and answer

Greywater effect on plants from Dallas
June 09, 2013 - How does gray water affect plants?
view the full question and answer

Leaf fall from Cedar Elm planted in clay
August 17, 2008 - I saw the answer to leaves falling off a cedar elm planted in clay. However I planted a Cedar Elm in my back yard. I dug a hole in the grass then planted and put grass back on top. I water every other...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping plant for Austin
September 01, 2011 - Great site! Have gotten lots of ideas. We're about to start construction on a fairly major landscaping project: raised beds/privacy screen. We're at the top of a hill in the Hill Country just wes...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center