En EspaŅol

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
1 rating

Wednesday - June 15, 2011

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Drought Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Alternative to swamp sunflower for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I love this forum and have learned so much from it! Do you know of an alternative to Helianthus angustifolius L. (Swamp sunflower) that requires less water and would be more drought tolerant for urban native landscaping in Austin, Texas? It'd be preferable it reach no more than 2-3 feet in height and that it have yellow to orange blooms.

ANSWER:

Thanks for the nice words, but we are NOT a forum. We are a team of mostly volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Several of our team members have degrees in botany, zoology and horticulture; others are just dedicated gardeners. We do our research in our own Native Plant Database and other materials in books and the Internet;  we sometimes request help from outside experts who really know what they are talking about.

To find a less water-centric sunflower, we are going to go to our Native Plant Database and type in the genus name helianthus in the name box at the top of the page. This gave us a list of 34 members of the helianthus genus native to North America. Using the sidebar at the right-hand side of the page, we selected on Texas, dry soil, orange and yellow colors and 1-3 ft. in height. This gave us exactly 1 choice, Helianthus occidentalis (Fewleaf sunflower).

According to this USDA Plant Profile map, this flower is native near to Travis County. It grows to 30-40" tall, likes full sun, moist or dry soil, and blooms yellow. If you would like a few more choices, we can eliminate the height restriction and get 3 more possibilities:

Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian sunflower)- 4-6 ft. tall, sun, low water use, blooms yellow August to November

Helianthus strumosus (Paleleaf woodland sunflower) - 3-6 ft., dry soil, sun or part shade, blooms yellow July to September

Helianthus tuberosus (Jerusalem artichoke) - 3-6 ft. tall, blooms red, pink, yellow August to October, low water use, sun

 

From the Image Gallery


Fewleaf sunflower
Helianthus occidentalis

Maximilian sunflower
Helianthus maximiliani

Paleleaf woodland sunflower
Helianthus strumosus

Jerusalem artichoke
Helianthus tuberosus

More Drought Tolerant Questions

Native replacement for non-native Bermudagrass in Leander TX
October 16, 2011 - We have Bermuda grass. Large patches have died due to the drought and our yard has been taken over by weeds and St. Augustine grass whose seeds must have blown in. Even when the grass was in great con...
view the full question and answer

Drought-resistant and grub-resistant grass for Smithville TX
October 02, 2012 - I want a drought resistant grass for a sunny area that is also resistant to grubs. I have lots of grubs but want a healthy soil of good microbes. Any ideas? Zoysia, Buffalo? I noticed that Tech Turf r...
view the full question and answer

Drought tolerant grass with little need for mowing for Hill Country of Texas
November 17, 2011 - What grass would you recommend for the hill country of Texas that is drought tolerant and does not need frequent mowing?
view the full question and answer

Evergreen replacement for bamboo in Redding CA
July 27, 2009 - We have just removed bamboo from our backyard and need to replace it with a plant that will give us the same type of privacy. What plant would you suggest to plant along a fence line that will surviv...
view the full question and answer

Difficulty of watering at drip line of trees from The Woodlands TX
August 18, 2011 - I'm watering my couple dozen native mature trees to make sure they survive this drought and its aftermath..and I'm reading about how to water at the drip line. But..all of my trees' drip lines ext...
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