En Espa—ol

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
Not Yet Rated

Thursday - February 03, 2011

From: Los Angeles, CA
Region: California
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Need to Landscape a Small Yard in Southern California
Answered by: Marilyn Kircus and Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We live in Southern California, and have a small yard Ė approx. 40í x 20.í We want to remove the grass, which we are currently not irrigating, and replace with low maintenance, drought-tolerant plants/groundcover. Overall, the yard is quite sunny, with some summer shade on one side. The problem: our neighbors have a large pecan tree. Itís a lovely tree, but it drops A LOT of litter. So, we need things that can tolerate being raked or larger plants which wonít trap the falling leaves. Iíve read your posts about grass under pecans, but we really prefer to move away from grass. The good news: the pecanís potential toxins, donít seem to be effecting our grass or our neighbors. Any ideas?

ANSWER:

I am not familiar with your soil or climate so am going to use the tools offered by the Wildflower Center to help you find plants you will like and will be easy growers for you.  And if you plan to keep the leaves raked or blown away, you probably will only need to worry about plants in the root zone of the pecan tree, if at all.

But even before you start to choose plants, you probably want to think of what look you would like to see in your yard - something very spare and geometric or an English type border.  Something mostly monochromatic in green or grey with some bright accents or a riot of color.  What hardscapes do you want - a patio or sitting area, a pergola or  trellises to give height. An outdoor eating area.  And since your space is so small, you will need miniature trees or vines for height, then some lower plants and some very low plants. And you might want to include some decorative grasses for accent or movement.

 After you figure out where you want what kind of plants, you can go to the Explore Plants tab on the Wildflower Center's webpage and then click on Explore plants again.  Scroll down to the Recommended Species List, then click on Southern California on the map. You will get 208 plants. On the right you can narrow your choices to plants that grow in sun and dry soils. Then you can repeatedly narrow your search to shrubs, herbs, succulents, etc. to find plants you'll enjoy and which will grow easily for you. We are going to lead you through choosing one plant, a shrub, so you can see how to use the Native Plant Database to get just the right plant. For this one, we chose a shrub that can be pruned into a tree, indicated sun or part shade (because of the pecan tree) but did not select on soil moisture, bloom time, etc.

We chose from the resulting 72-shrub list Amelanchier alnifolia (Saskatoon serviceberry). By following the plant link you can learn what kind of moisture this plant needs, the soils it prefers, light requirements and expected size. Using the same technique but choosing on General Appearance for tree, herbaceous blooming plant, vines and so forth you will get lists of plants that should work for you. In terms of ground cover, let us refer you to this Las Pilitas Nursery site with a list of native California ground covers. They are closer to the area and much more knowledgeable in it than we are.

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Amelanchier alnifolia


Amelanchier alnifolia


Amelanchier alnifolia


Amelanchier alnifolia

 

 

 

 

More Shrubs Questions

Wind and erosion tolerant plants from Austin
August 05, 2013 - I recently cleared a fire break by removing cedar from around my home in West Austin. I'd like to plant the exposed NW facing slope with native shrubs and trees. Looking for selections that can wit...
view the full question and answer

Pruning of wax myrtle in St. Augustine FL
May 30, 2009 - How severely can we prune our wax myrtle? It had grown 10 feet tall and very spindly and we want it to be a border hedge in front of the preserve in back of our yard.
view the full question and answer

Replacement Yaupon holly doing poorly in Pflugerville, TX
May 09, 2012 - I had to replace quite a few shrubs after the drought last year. I live in Austin, TX. I have planted 3 dwarf yaupon holly bushes in the exact same place where the previous three same type of shrubs...
view the full question and answer

Indoor lantana tree dropping leaves
November 06, 2008 - I purchased a lantana tree,a lantana hybrid that is only tolerant to 32 degrees. We are zone 5 so I brought it indoors and it only gets the morning sun, and 85%of the leaves have fallen off. The leav...
view the full question and answer

Low growing, flowering evergreen plants for Pflugerville TX
March 30, 2010 - I am wondering if you can suggest some low growing, flowering evergreen plants for my garden.
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center