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
2 ratings

Friday - July 15, 2011

From: Washington, DC
Region: Mid-Atlantic
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Need suggestions for alternatives for Crape Myrtle in Washington, DC.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

What can you recommend as native alternatives to the shorter (garden-sized) crape myrtle cultivars?

ANSWER:

To get an idea of the size of plants we need to look for, I consulted this link from North Carolina State University and found that dwarf cultivars of Crape Myrtle range from 5 to 20’.

The Houston Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas (NPSOT) has a program called NICE (Natives Instead of Common Exotics) that encourages people to utilize native plants in their landscape, and provides suggested alternatives for the exotics. Below is an excerpted list of “Bird and Butterfly Plants” which has several alternatives for crape myrtle.

Small Trees:
Use: 
Mexican Plum, Redbud, Green Hawthorn, Deciduous Holly, Cherry Laurel, Wild Crab Apple, American Holly, Red Buckeye, Sweet Bay Magnolia, Farkleberry, Smooth Sumac, Flame-Leaf Sumac, Tooth-Ache Tree
Instead of Exotics: 
Bradford Pear, Crape Myrtle, Wax Leaf Ligustrum, Red tip Photinia 
 
Medium Sized Trees:
Use: 
Red Buckeye, American Hop Hornbeam, Hornbeam, Gum Bumelia, Flowering Dogwood, Rough-leaf Dogwood,
Mexican Plum, Redbud, Carolina Buckthorn, Drummond Red Maple, Green Hawthorn, American Holly
Instead of Exotics:
Bradford Pear, Chinese Elm (also known as lacebark, Drake, Allee, Bosque Elm), Crape Myrtle, Red tip Photinia,
Chinese Tallow, Goldenrain Tree, Chinese Umbrella Tree (also known as Chinaberry Tree or Melia), Mimosa,

This sort of looks overwhelming but if we utilize our Native Plant Database, we might can make it manageable.

First, lets select a few plants that could be possibilities. ( Redbud, Cherry Laurel, Flame-leaf sumac, Deciduous Holly). Now go to the the Database and enter each plant name (one at a time) in the “Search native plant database” box. Click the “go” button, and you will get the NPIN page for that plant. Things to look for on the page: the scientific name of the plant, a description of the plant that includes its mature size, growth requirements such as amount of water, light needed, and soil type, and other plant characteristics. Scroll down to the “Additional Resources” box and click on the plant name next to USDA plants. The page that comes up contains a distribution map that shows the geographical areas where the plant grows.
Do this for all of the plants on our short list, and if you are still having fun, continue on through the long list and see what strikes your fancy.

Our Suppliers Directory can help you locate businesses in your area that sell the plants you select .

 

From the Image Gallery


Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis

Cherry laurel
Prunus caroliniana

Prairie flameleaf sumac
Rhus lanceolata

Possumhaw
Ilex decidua

More Non-Natives Questions

Are non-native Chinese pistache poisonous to alpacas from Galt CA
October 07, 2012 - Are Chinese Pistachio trees poisonous to alpacas?
view the full question and answer

Yellowing leaves in non-native Arbutus unedo in Washington
July 03, 2008 - I live in the Pacific Northwest and have planted 2 dwarf strawberry trees. I have been giving them lots of water. Their leaves are turning yellow. Am I watering them too much? Not enough?
view the full question and answer

Non-native weeping willow losing leaves
June 03, 2008 - We have a willow tree (weeping), which sprung up naturally about 12 years ago. It has done very well until this summer. After its bloom in late March, it is losing its leaves again..turning yellow and...
view the full question and answer

Native plant to replace invasive non-native nandina in Houston
February 28, 2010 - I'm just now finding out that Nandinas are an invasive species from our local chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas. I have three of them in my front yard and want to replace them. Can you sug...
view the full question and answer

Liquid glucose as substitute for sunlight from New York City
December 16, 2012 - I am curious to find out whether liquid glucose can be poured as water for mung bean plants as substitute for no sunlight. Is the possible? Will a specific amount of glucose need to be used? Can liqui...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center