En Español

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

Please forgive us, but Mr. Smarty Plants has been overwhelmed by a flood of mail and must take a break for awhile to catch up. We hope to be accepting new questions again soon. Thank you!

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.

 
rate this answer
5 ratings

Saturday - July 09, 2011

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Plants for under live oak in Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi, We have a live oak in our back garden in Houston and would like to plant a combination of some native shrubs and flowers near it (preferably perennial). The garden bed is about 4 metres from the base of the oak but is still under the tree canopy and is mostly in shade. Please can you advise which native plants would do well in this environment? Thanks very much!

ANSWER:

Of course, you already know that you need shade-tolerant plants, but let us tell you a little bit more about planting under a live oak. We get lots and lots of questions about plants not growing under trees and/or what plants will grow under trees. Let us refer you to a previous Mr. Smarty Plants question to keep from repeating ourselves.  Then we will suggest some shade tolerant plants native to South Texas that might do all right, but we hope you remember that the tree is probably more valuable than anything else you might plant. You may need to modify your expectations, move the shrubs, etc. farther away from the oak, or even cover the ground under the oak with mulch. The mulch is attractive, helps keeps weeds down, protects the roots from heat or cold, depending on the weather and, as the mulch decomposes, improves the soil beneath the tree.

On our Recommended Species page, we have some lists of plants just for Texans. You are in the Gulf Prairies and Marshes ecosystem in Texas. When you go to that list, you will find 296 plants that are native there. By using the sidebar on the right hand side of the page, you can select on "shrub" under General Appearance, then "part shade" (2 to 6 hours of sun a day) and "shade" (less than 2 hours of sun) under Light Requirements, then Narrow Your Search. This will give you a list of 35 possibilities; you can repeat the procedure using "herb" (herbaceous blooming plant) under General Appearance, which will result in 74 selections. Follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn bloom time and color, soil needs, projected height, water use and so forth. We are going to give you some suggestions and you can go from there finding the right plants for you.

Herbaceous Blooming Plants for Houston:

Echinacea purpurea (Eastern purple coneflower)

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)

Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern)

Phlox pilosa (Downy phlox)

Shrubs for Houston:

Erythrina herbacea (Coralbean)

Hydrangea quercifolia (Oakleaf hydrangea)

Malpighia glabra (Acerola)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (Coralberry)

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern purple coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

Cinnamon fern
Osmunda cinnamomea

Downy phlox
Phlox pilosa

Coralbean
Erythrina herbacea

Oakleaf hydrangea
Hydrangea quercifolia

Barbados cherry
Malpighia glabra

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Vine for complete shade in California
December 21, 2012 - I'm looking for a vine to put over my back door which is in complete shade.
view the full question and answer

Wildflowers for high canal bank in Florida
May 27, 2009 - My home is on a canal to a natural lake in Central Florida (Orlando area). I am wondering if there is a wildflower that I can grow on a 3' high canal bank that is mostly shady.
view the full question and answer

Plants for shade in Northern California
March 30, 2010 - What are good plants that grow and live in shade only?
view the full question and answer

Decorative Trees for Scenic Bench in Fairhope IL
June 10, 2012 - I am looking for a recommendation for a pair of small trees (does not grow taller than 18-20 feet) that can provide shade on either side of a stone bench. The site is in full sun, western exposure an...
view the full question and answer

Philadelphus ernestii under live oak in Pflugerville TX
April 05, 2010 - Will Philadelphus ernestii thrive in the root zone of live oak, or would the oak inhibit its growth? I'd like to plant it just at the edge of the canopy.
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center