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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Monday - January 24, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Shade Tolerant
Title: Native plants for small pots in sun in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hello Mr. Smarty Plants! We are renting our house, so while we have a yard, the landlord would prefer us to only add plants to his landscaping in pots. I have filled some large ones, but have been unable to find a good list of local Austin area plants good in very small pots. They are houseplant sized (about 3-5 cups), but I would love it if you could think of some small native plants that could survive outside in them. The yard has both shady and sunny areas, but I would prefer plants for our sunny back porch. Ideas?

ANSWER:

Before we address some specific plants for your request, we suggest you read two of our How-To Articles: A Guide to Native Plant Gardening and Container Gardening with Native Plants.

You will find your choices pretty limited by such small pots. There are some nice native cacti and succulents that are slow-growing enough that they can remain in limited space for longer, but will eventually have to go in the ground or a larger pot. Also, many smaller, slower-growing plants require at least some shade during the day, so please read the webpages on the plants to which we will refer you carefully, to see if they will fit into your location well.

To see what is available that is native to the Austin area. we will go to our Native Plant Database and search in the Combination Search on Texas and then on "succulent" for Habit or General Appearance. We will give you a few suggestions, follow each link to find out more about that plant's expected size, light requirements and soil. For pots, succulents will like the cactus and succulent soil mixes available at nurseries. After you begin using the Native Plant Database, you can make your own searches, choosing plants that fit your requirements. The ones that we thought might stay fairly small for a while are nearly all pretty prickly, and might not want them where children or pets could hurt themselves. If nothing you find in the succulents is suitable, you might consider using those small pots for nursery pots, planting seeds in them and growing plants to a size large enough to transplant to a bigger pot or the ground.

Succulents for containers in Austin:

Coryphantha echinus (Rhinoceros cactus)

Coryphantha sulcata (Nipple cactus)

Echinocereus coccineus var. coccineus (Scarlet hedgehog cactus)

Echinocereus pectinatus (Rainbow cactus)

Echinocereus reichenbachii (Lace cactus)

Echeveria strictiflora (Desert savior)

Manfreda maculosa (False aloe)

Manfreda sileri (Siler's tuberose)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Coryphantha echinus


Coryphantha sulcata


Echinocereus coccineus var. coccineus


Echinocereus pectinatus


Echinocereus reichenbachii


Echeveria strictiflora


Manfreda maculosa


Manfreda sileri

 

 

 

 

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