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Mr. Smarty Plants - Need Small Native Shrub in Dallas, TX

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Friday - September 17, 2010

From: Dallas, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Need Small Native Shrub in Dallas, TX
Answered by: Marilyn Kircus

QUESTION:

We live in Dallas and are looking for a dwarf bush that we can plant in the space between the sidewalk and the street in front of our house. It would receive full sun to partial shade. We would like for it to flower or change color throughout the seasons, but mainly we want color in the fall and winter. Our friends have suggested Dwarf Nandina and Flowering Quince, but the Quince doesn't appear to have leaves and the Nandina could easily spread elsewhere. Can you give any advice or suggestions?

ANSWER:

My first thought was dwarf wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera var. pumila). This is a beautiful little plant with berries for winter interest. It also has a wonderful scent and pretty bark. You will have to give it water until it gets established.  Then it can withstand both drought and flooding.  I have grown the plants in Houston in alkaline clay in part sun successfully.  The full size myrtles are growing as small trees in Dripping Springs, in the Texas Hill Country.   

The Lady Bird Johnson database has information on Wax Myrtles in general.

Dwarf Yaupon Holly (Ilex vomitoria 'Nana') is another possibility.  It is slow growing and stays in a mound.  It is a tough ornamental that stays green all winter – but doesn't usually produce berries. It tolerates hot, dry locations.

And another possibility – although not a shrub – is Lindheimer’s muhley (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri). Its seed ripens in December so you will have beautiful seed heads all winter.  This plant is being used extensively in landscapes in the Texas Hill Country and will do well for you.  The movement of the grass in the wind is mesmerizing and the seed heads form in the fall and last all winter.  In the spring, you can use Duct Tape to tape around the lower stems of the plant, about twelve inches from the base of the plant.   Then take electric hedge trimmers and cut the plant just below the tape.  Recycle or dispose of the grass tops.  In early spring, the grass will again begin growing.  And plants in four inch pots planted in the spring will be full grown by fall.

If you are like me and can't do with just one species, you could combine two or even all three of these to make an even more interesting landscape in the space between your sidewalk and street.  And from the house, it would form a backdrop to a border in your front yard, thus visually extending your yard.

  
Muhlenbergia lindheimeri

 

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