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 - 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 Cacti and Succulents Questions

Should I remove the flowering stalk from my Dasylirion leioiphyllum?
March 23, 2009 - We transplanted a plant that is new to us but going through your photos on your website, it appears that we have a Dasylirion Leiophy. My question is this.. Are we supposed to cut the 6' stem that f...
view the full question and answer

Speeding up growth of Hesperaloe parviflora (red yucca)
January 12, 2012 - I have germinated Hesperaloe parviflora, Red Yucca, for our Caddo Native plant sale. I have kept in the cool greenhouse for 2 months and they are about 2 inches. A friend put one outside and they froz...
view the full question and answer

Transplanting yucca pups from Dallas
September 01, 2010 - Can I transplant Pup Yucca plants off of the main yucca and how do I cut them off?
view the full question and answer

Cleaning up Adams Needle yucca in Vancouver Island BC
May 19, 2009 - We have Adam's needle yucca's in our the flower bed of our newly purchased home here on Vancouver Island BC. They thrive and produce impressive flowers. How do I clean them up in the spring time ...
view the full question and answer

Agave with large stem growing
May 01, 2011 - It is a large stem growing from my agave plant in the middle of it. It looks scary and ugly, what is it? Is it poisonous? Is it rare? It gets taller and taller everyday, what to cut it.
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
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center