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

Smoky Mountains Shaded Slope Plant Suggestions
April 29, 2013 - We live in a very shady spot in Great Smoky Mountains in Western North Carolina. We would like to plant vegetation on a sloped area behind our cottage to stop erosion after building an addition. Our h...
view the full question and answer

Replacement for Kentucky grass in Colorado
July 02, 2012 - What kind of grass to replace "Kentucky grass"? It uses too much water. Need drought tolerant grass for the Rifle, Colorado area ("zip code is 81650"). Water bill is way too high, pushing over $10...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover and Butterfly attractants for LaRue Texas
May 02, 2012 - LaRue, TX - Would like a native low growing plant as a groundcover. I would like it for six+ hours of sun, drought tolerant, and ones that butterflies might enjoy, while deer won't. Some winter int...
view the full question and answer

Bringing upright a leaning cholla cactus
August 29, 2013 - I have a 3 ft. tall Cylindropuntia bigelovii that fell over after recent rains. I righted it and supported it with garden stakes for about a month. I was afraid to pull too hard on the low...
view the full question and answer

Salt tolerant plants for Long Beach
May 12, 2013 - When Hurricane Sandy hit Long Beach, it has killed all my plants and now almost all of Long Beach is left with dead dried brown vegetation. I want to replant front with bushes and flowers. What woul...
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