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Mr. Smarty Plants - Evergreen Shrubs for the Houston area

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Thursday - March 24, 2011

From: Pearland, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Evergreen Shrubs for the Houston area
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

Hello Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in the Houston area and I am looking for an evergreen native shrub (no more than 7 feet tall at maturity) for two locations - one would be in full sun and the other beneath a tall crepe myrtle (would receive morning sun). I would prefer the same plant to work in both locations- since they would frame window. Can you recommend something? Also, low maintanence. I hope this is not too many requirements! :)

ANSWER:

Well, you can have as many requirements as you like!   In the end we’ll give you a few suggestions and you’ll have to make some choices as to how strong your requirements are and how well the suggested plants fit into your whole landscape.

  As it turns out, the desire for “low maintenance” is pretty well handled in that you asked about native shrubs.  Our whole point is that these plants will happily grow in the wild with NO MAINTENANCE, so the little bit of care and watering they get from being in your yard is plenty for them.  Similarly, as you ask for a low shrub, these tend to be understory plants in the wild, so they come programmed to deal well in both full sun and partial.  Of course, the one in full sun will likely be the happier one and will grow a bit more aggressively than the shaded one.

  Mr Smarty Plants would note that the crape myrtle is NOT a native (popular as they are). If you have an arborist elevate the cape myrtle and do some pruning you’ll find that it allows quite a bit of light to come through the branches. That should even the growth differences in the trees slightly, from one window to the other.

  OK, on the recommendations.  That’s a perfect job for the recommended plants application offered on this website.  You can choose the recommended plants for East Texas and you can be pretty sure they will be good choices.  Note that Pearland is real close to the "border" to South Texas, so if your yard is more like the area to the West, then somewhat different recommendations emerge! 

  As well as the East Texas Recommended list you could also consult the Native Plant Society of Texas-Houston Chapter webpage.  They have a great PDF file of Native Plant Information that has lists of various types of recommended plants for the Houston area.  Unfortunately, about the only evergreen shrub on our list I could find is Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon) and it doesn't fit the <6 ft. criteria; however there are dwarf varieties.   On Houston's list there is dwarf Morella cerifera (Wax myrtle) and Sabal minor (Dwarf palmetto) as evergreens that fit the size criteria.  All were noted to be good for partial shade but to grow taller in favorable conditions.  You might have to prune later on.

                    
Ilex vomitoria
                    Morella cerifera              Sabal minor

  While I’m at it though, I also spotted Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry), one of my favorites.  It’s not an evergreen, but the berries are very striking.  This one might fit well into your plan, depending on the look you may be trying to achieve. 

         

          Callicarpa americana           Callicarpa americana

 Hope this helps!

 

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