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 Herbs/Forbs Questions

Maintenance of Bicolor Sage in Austin
February 05, 2009 - I had quite a bit of Bicolor Sage planted when my yard was landscaped. I am now wondering on the proper plant maintenance. Do I prune back and if so, how much and when do I prune?
view the full question and answer

Invasiveness of Cosmos from Decatur GA
April 26, 2013 - I have been searching for an answer concerning the invasive plant Cosmos. I know that Florida declares this but I have not been able to find out does Georgia? And specifically,is it only the yellow Co...
view the full question and answer

Effects of Hedysarum mackenzii from Pflugerville TX
May 08, 2013 - What are the effects of Hedysarum mackenzii?
view the full question and answer

Establishing wildflowers on a slope in Virginia
August 18, 2012 - From Roanoke Virginia. I have a steep bank rising from one side of my driveway to woods above. Different areas vary from full sun, to half day shade. It is possible to carefully walk/stand on it, we a...
view the full question and answer

Blueberries & Raspberries for Walla Walla WA
October 17, 2011 - Which blueberry and raspbery plants grow best and suvive winter in Walla Walla Washington
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