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
2 ratings

Friday - February 24, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Xeriscapes, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Non-native hylocereus undatus for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can we plant Hylocereus (Dragon Fruit) here in Austin, TX? We are going to have a large xeriscape bed and want to know what all we can put in it. We are new to Texas so we have no clue what grows here with minimum amount of watering.

ANSWER:

Welcome to Texas. We will answer your primary question and then introduce you to our website and Native Plant Database. First, we must tell you that the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and Mr. Smarty Plants recommends only plants native not only to North America but to the areas in which those plants grow naturally. This is for conservation reasons, because a plant habituated to an environment will survive much more readily in the same environment in terms of soils, rainfall, temperatures, etc. You are wise to be choosing plants that have low water use, in view of the heat and drought we had last year, and may very well recur in the future.

Our very first recommendation is that you come to our Spring Plant Sale, April 14-15. Everything in our botanical gardens and sold in the Sale is native to Central Texas. There will be members of the Mr. Smarty Plants Team onsite, and staff members and volunteers to help you find what you need, as well as making recommendations.

Hylocereus undatus, (Dragon Fruit) is a succulent native to Central America and the Caribbean, and therefore not considered native. Also, as you will learn when you follow the plant link, it is a grafted plant, which also does not fall into our definition of "native." The article we have linked you to is very good, with lots of information, and should answer all your questions. We see no reason why it should not grow in a bed prepared for good drainage, with sand or decomposed granite, or both, mixed into the soil.

From eartheasy, here is an excellent article on Xeriscape.

Now, to save ourselves time and work (always an objective) we are going to send you some links, some from our website and some we found online on gardening in Central Texas. Be sure to explore our Native Plant Database.

We will give you a tutorial in using the resources of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to help you design your own. Before we do that, allow us to offer our philosophy of gardening. You are not decorating a house. You are not gardening to impress. Plants are not furniture, and none of them look good year round. Think of your property as your environment. Are you economizing on water, a very scarce resource in Texas? Are you using plants native to Central Texas, which impose less of a burden on resources? Are you able to care properly for the plants you have, pulling out the weeds, keeping areas clean, hand watering, if necessary?

These are all questions you need to ask yourself, and then start making your own landscape plan. And, remember, "garden" is a verb. There is real work involved, no matter what you do, and maintenance is forever, so don't get carried away and too complicated. A messy, overgrown yard is unattractive, no matter how much thought and money and water have gone into it.

We have several How-To Articles as well as Step-by-Step instructions, and we hope you will read them as you come to problems related to the subject matter. Please begin with How-To Articles A Guide to Native Plant Gardening and Caring for Your New Native Plants.

1.  Begin with what you already have. No doubt you have something, whether it's what you like or not, but trying to totally replace an entire garden in one fell swoop is not only very chaotic, but expensive..

2.  Now for the basics, make a map (not necessarily scale) of your area, with buildings, existing trees, sidewalk, driveway sketched in. Watch the amount of sun each part gets for several days, because that is a significant factor in plant selection. Every plant in our Native Plant Database will tell you what the light and water needs of that plant are. You need to include shade from structures, existing plants, etc. We consider "sun" to be 6 or more hours of sunlight a day, "part shade" 2 to 6 hours of sun, and "shade" 2 hours or less.

2.  Determine what areas you will be able to water, either with sprinkler system or hand watering. Although you are now out of drought conditions, weather in Texas never stops surprising us-be prepared for the worst and hope for the best.

3.  Start with the big stuff first, and plan on trees or large shrubs you want, moving on next to the lawn and blooming plants. Using your sun/shade map, make selections from our Special Collections, Plants for the Edwards Plateau of Texas. There are other plants from nearby areas that will work here, too, but that is a good starting place.

As you have already discovered, selection of succulents is a good choice for a xeriscape, but there are many other plants well adapted to a low water use, semi-desert environment. Be sure and check the water use of any plant you are considering. When you shop for plants, write down the scientific name of the plant (as you did on the Dragon Fruit) and go home and research the plant. Start with our Native Plant Database; if it's not there, it is probably not native, so go search on the Internet. Remember, the whole point of using natives is that they can and do survive here.

 

 

 

More Xeriscapes Questions

Flowering native plants for Arizona
October 19, 2004 - I was wondering if you could help me? We are moving from California to Arizona, and I was wondering if you can tell me some flowering plants, or any plants that will thrive in the hot Arizona tempera...
view the full question and answer

Xeriscaping in clay on a slope in Fort Worth
April 06, 2006 - Xeriscaping in clay (Fort Worth) on a slope -- Please offer suggestions and publications. Thanks
view the full question and answer

Non-native zoysia and bermuda grasses in Austin
July 11, 2013 - We have Bermuda grass in the front and Zoysia in the back yards. The back grass is fine but the front yard Bermuda isn't. We have watered once each week during the spring and during the past 3 weeks...
view the full question and answer

Five-eight foot hedge for north Texas
September 06, 2013 - I am looking to find a fairly large (preferably flowering) shrub / hedge to go along 100 feet of fence. The plants will be facing Northeast, but will be for the most part under the branches of crape m...
view the full question and answer

Restoring fire damage in Bastrop TX
November 03, 2011 - I live in the Bastrop State Park area. We were severely affected by the wildfire and as we are trying to rebuild our home, we are being very aware of the particularities of the recovery process. We lo...
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 | SITEMAP | STAFF
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center