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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 - March 28, 2011

From: Llano, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Native Substitute for Boxwood in Llano, TX
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson

QUESTION:

I love boxwood because it's evergreen & provides a great backdrop to my flowers w/o taking over the bed. However, I'm trying to stick with native plants, so can you provide a native alternative to boxwood for me (other than native grasses & dwarf yaupon)? It would need to be able to handle full Texas sun,preferably be evergreen & drought tolerant & also not grow over 3-4 feet tall. All I can come up with is mountain laurel or yaupon, but eventually they would become too tall and bushy. I know you will have an answer to my dilemma. Thank you in advance!

ANSWER:

Yes, Boxwood is a good background plant, nice configuration and evergreen to boot!  Buxus sempervirens, the Common Boxwood, grows as an introduced species in a few states in the mid-Atlantic states, but we’d advise you not to try it in Texas.  There is one boxwood,  Paxistima myrsinites (Myrtle Boxwood) [In common name, note that it is not Buxus] that is found in Texas, but only in one county near San Antonio.

There are a few other Native Shrubs that might be able to fill that purpose for you.  Perhaps you can consider Salvia greggii (Autumn sage) or Mahonia swaseyi (Texas barberry)?  These fit all your requirements for 3-4 foot tall, evergreen native shrubs.

Slightly taller are Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo) and Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita) as evergreen native shrubs that are found in Llano County.  If you are willing to prune them back, you can keep these to the three feet mark and maybe fill them out a bit. 

Always consider contacting your local  Highland Lakes Native Plant Society and/or the Llano County Extension Office.  They may have information on other choices or ways that you can work with these to fit your plans.

 

From the Image Gallery


Oregon boxleaf
Paxistima myrsinites

Autumn sage
Salvia greggii

Texas barberry
Mahonia swaseyi

Cenizo
Leucophyllum frutescens

Agarita
Mahonia trifoliolata

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