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?


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
1 rating

Tuesday - August 02, 2011

From: Dripping Springs, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Rainwater Harvesting, Cacti and Succulents, Shrubs, Wildflowers
Title: Native Plant Suggestions for Dripping Springs
Answered by: Brigid & Larry Larson


I have a very dry commercial property in Dripping Springs TX where the dry sand/dust isn't a good rain conductor (whenever we get rain). What can we plant there? We have no irrigation and use a rain water collection system only. We guess a grass or a totally drought tolerant groundcover would be our answer Thanks!!


Mr Smarty Plants sympathizes with your plight - - but - You've come to the right place!

Native plants are your answer; after all, they grew and adapted to the soil and weather conditions here and they certainly have the best chances at success.  Although..... this is one of the hardest summers we have had in record.  You should perhaps delay any planting until the fall, or at least until enough water has come to give your plants a chance at successfully establishing themselves. Once established, any native plant should be able to hold its own with a minimum  of care.

Now, you asked "what can you plant"?  There are a lot of choices out there.  The Wildflower Center keeps lists of recommended species.  You would want to use the list for Central Texas or perhaps the one for the Edwards Plateau. I tried to sort the Edwards Plateau list to get  only those adapted to dry soil, with no signs of moisture, and the list only shrank by 1/3 [to 256 species], so you have lots of choices to work with.

If you are looking for a grass, then Bouteloua dactyloides (Buffalograss) is a native that is well adapted to this climate.  The Wildflower Center has been doing a fair bit of research and recommends a 3-grass mix as the best approach.  Other individual grasses that have a good appearance include Muhlenbergia lindheimeri (Lindheimer's muhly) or Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feathergrass)Salvia farinacea (Mealy blue sage) would look good amongst the grasses.

Cactus/Succulents are always hardy to dry climates.  Consider Hesperaloe parviflora (Red yucca), Yucca rupicola (Twistleaf yucca), Nolina texana (Texas sacahuista) or any of the the classic Agave species.

Wildflowers can add a touch of color.  Conisider Chrysactinia mexicana (Damianita), Dalea greggii (Gregg dalea), Callirhoe involucrata (Winecup) or any of several Verbena species.

So, here are some good choices.  As I noted above, there are 256 species on the list, most of which will be suited to your growing conditions!  For even more information, you can read the Wasowski Books listed in the references, you can visit the City of Austin "Grow Green" website, check out the Hays County Extension Office, or just c'mon in to the Wildflower Center and visit with us!


From the Image Gallery

Bouteloua dactyloides

Lindheimer's muhly
Muhlenbergia lindheimeri

Mealy blue sage
Salvia farinacea

Bouteloua dactyloides

Mealy blue sage
Salvia farinacea

Red yucca
Hesperaloe parviflora

Twistleaf yucca
Yucca rupicola

Texas sacahuista
Nolina texana

Gregg dalea
Dalea greggii

Chrysactinia mexicana

More Wildflowers Questions

Boom time for Texas wildflowers and best sites for viewing
February 01, 2006 - I live in NJ and would like to visit Texas and see the bluebonnets and other wildflowers in bloom this spring. When do you expect the best display of flowers this year? Also, can you tell me where th...
view the full question and answer

Attracting butterflies in Tennessee
July 03, 2009 - What flowers and plants do the caterpillars in Tennessee eat? And do you know what butterflies live in Tipton Co. Tennessee?
view the full question and answer

Plants for slopes in South Texas
October 05, 2009 - Can you provide a list of plants for use on slopes in S. Texas?
view the full question and answer

Critter-Proof Native Plants for Virginia Lawn
April 02, 2015 - We live in a gated community that was part of the Wilderness Battlefield during the Civil War. Our home is on a narrow lot, fully treed except for a postage stamp-sized lawn at lake side. We have de...
view the full question and answer

Native wildflowers for an Asheville, NC garden.
March 30, 2015 - I live in Asheville. I just bought a small home for the first time with a .22 acre yard. It's extremely sunny on the east side and gets good sun most of the day. Like most WNC area yards it's on a s...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center