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Mr. Smarty Plants - When to plant in Austin

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Tuesday - November 02, 2010

From: Georgetown, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seasonal Tasks
Title: When to plant in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I own a small landscaping business in the Austin area, and we are admittedly learning every day, but trying to do the right thing. We are knowledgeable about the sun, water, soil requirements for a variety of native plants, only install native plants for our clients. My issue is that I can never find WHEN to plant them. Please help. Is there a database somewhere that includes proper planting time?

ANSWER:

There are some pretty broad and general rules that you can go by, and any that don't fit into that you may have to use a little common sense. We recommend planting seeds of just about anything except grasses in the Fall. Grasses are better planted in early Spring, as that is when they germinate, so there are fewer months for insects, birds and miscellaneous weather events to take them away. Woody plants, shrubs and trees, never, ever, never in hot weather. Our favorite months for those are November through January. Since in this part of North America, our soil doesn't freeze (it may melt, but it doesn't freeze), woody plants with sturdy roots are better put in when the weather is moderate. Perennial bedding plants can be planted either Fall or early Spring. Planting them in early Spring, after the normal last freeze date, will prevent having to worry about protecting the plants  in their first season during one of our rare freezes.

As far as there being a database that says when to plant them, someone, somewhere may have one, but it probably won't be for Texas weather. We have a How-To Article A Guide to Native Plant Gardening that should help you some.  You are already going in the right direction by planting only plants native to the area, as they are already acclimated by millennia of experience to our sometimes strange weather. Since they are native, you get your clues from when Nature drops the seeds, which is why we recommend planting, for instance, wildflowers in the Fall.

Beyond that, you may need sometimes to know WHERE to plant your plants, shade, sun, moist soil, etc. To find that out, go to our Native Plant Database, type in the common or scientific name of the plant you are interested in, follow the link and you will find out what kind of soil that plant needs, how much moisture it requires, sun requirements, bloom color and time. A little research and you can impress your clients with the broad range of your knowledge. Another hint, while you are on that specific plant page, is to go down to the bottom of the page and click on the USDA Plant Profile link. You will get more information about the plant and also can click on Texas on the map to get a map to show in which counties that plant is growing. Those maps get out of date and should not be the only authority, but if the plant you are interested in grows only in one county in East Texas, that's a pretty good clue it doesn't belong on the Central Texas alkaline soil.

 

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