Rent Shop Volunteer Join

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
1 rating

Thursday - June 08, 2006

From: Minneapolis, MN
Region: Midwest
Topic: General Botany, Soils
Title: Plants adding calcium to soil
Answered by: Joe Marcus and Dean Garrett

QUESTION:

Hi, I am looking for a resource to help determine the functions of native plants. For instance, nitrogen fixing can be found in Indigo, Lead plant, lupines. Are there other plants that add back calcium? Also, I'm looking for a resource that states planting guidelines for the native plants for home scale landscaping. I've cleared my front slope and planted natives 2 years ago, but wanting to add more density without encroaching on existing root structures etc. Thanks so much for your time!

ANSWER:

As far as we know, there are no plants that fix calcium in the way that leguminous plants fix nitrogen. Calcium isn't as important to plants as nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, so no mechanisms have evolved that enable plants to insure its presence in the soil.

If what you're wanting to do is alter an acidic (low pH) soil to make it more calcareous (higher in calcium carbonate) in order to plant species that require a higher pH, our recommendation would be to instead use locally native plants that prefer the region's acidic soils. If the natural calcium carbonate that your soil originally had has been stripped out for some reason, supplementing your soil with lime or applying a top dressing of compost with ground eggshell added can help. Compost from the fallen leaves of locally native plants can also work to restore a regionally appropriate pH balance to your soil.

For plant recommendations, since I don't know what natives you've planted and what the size of your lot is, I'm going to refer you to our regional factpack for the Midwest, the Minnesota Native Plant Society, and the Twin Cities chapter of the Wild Ones for help. The latter two organizations have extensive experience working with native plants and very helpful resources on their websites. They may also be able to help answer questions about your soil.

 

More Soils Questions

Privacy screen shrubs for Butler PA
August 09, 2013 - Here is what I want in a bush: native to Western Pa.(Southern Butler County), appropriate for a horse pasture,fast growing, not too aggressive (I will mow around it regularly and can prune occasionall...
view the full question and answer

Growing bluebonnets in pot in Flower Mound TX
November 01, 2011 - We received a package of bluebonnet seeds along with the DVD Wildflowers: Seeds of History as a gift. In the film, Andrea DeLong mentions that bluebonnets did not grow well in a rich organic soil. W...
view the full question and answer

Erosion control on slope from Columbia SC
April 25, 2013 - We are in the process of having a new home built in Columbia South Carolina. Part of the front yard has a steep slope starting approximately four feet from the corner of the house and running to the ...
view the full question and answer

What hydrangeas can be grown in Austin?
June 02, 2011 - I was told that oak leaf hydrangea was the only hydrangea variety that could be successfully grown in Austin TX. My oakleaf hydrangea is doing great and I would like to plant other varieties. Can you...
view the full question and answer

Failure to thrive of desert willow in Wimberley TX
August 10, 2010 - I have a desert willow. It is always, whether I water it or leave it alone, yellow/ brown leaves, dark spots on the leaves, losing leaves. now it looks sad and not very healthy. Can you please tell m...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.