En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - low-growing evergreen shrubs for thin soil

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
Not Yet Rated

Monday - March 05, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Drought Tolerant, Shrubs
Title: low-growing evergreen shrubs for thin soil
Answered by: Guy Thompson

QUESTION:

Thanks to the winter freeze, we'll be starting fresh with the plants in the bed along the front of our house. The bed is about 13' long and faces the west, so it gets afternoon/ evening sun but no morning sun. We live in the Loop 360/Bee Cave Road area, with thin topsoil and no automatic sprinkler system. We'd like low-growing (1 - 3') evergreen plants that will look somewhat "bushy" and not spindly. Would violet silverleaf or myrtle boxwood be our best bets? What about flame acanthus, nandina, or purple heart?

ANSWER:

The plants you suggest, violet silverleaf, also called Leucophyllum frutescens (Cenizo) (dwarf varieties are available), and myrtle boxwood, also called  Paxistima myrsinites (Mountain lover), would be good choices for your location.  Other possibilities are Ilex vomitoria (Yaupon), for which you also can obtain dwarf varieties, Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita), a prickly shrub that can be kept compact by pruning, Salvia greggii (Autumn sage), a colorful bloomer that needs a small amount of pruning, and Lonicera sempervirens (Coral honeysuckle), which is actually a climbing vine but can be trained to remain low on a trellis. I should point out that Yaupon plants are dioecious, that is, each plant has either male or female flowers but not both.  Nurseries usually sell female plants, which bear the colorful red berries, but if there are no yaupon plants growing wild in your neighborhood you might buy a male plant to pollinate the others.

A non-native that does well in Austin is rosemary.

All of these species should thrive in your location.  They need good drainage, so if your "thin topsoil" has hard caliche below it, you should loosen that up and add compost before planting. Whichever species you choose will need to be kept moist for some time while they become established.

Below are some sample images from the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center image gallery:

 

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Cenizo
Leucophyllum frutescens

Mountain lover
Paxistima myrsinites

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

Agarita
Mahonia trifoliolata

Autumn sage
Salvia greggii

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

More Shrubs Questions

Low growing, flowering evergreen plants for Pflugerville TX
March 30, 2010 - I am wondering if you can suggest some low growing, flowering evergreen plants for my garden.
view the full question and answer

Plants for full-sun landscape
November 20, 2007 - I live in a very rocky area just outside of Fort Worth, TX. It's taken me all spring, summer & now I'm going into the fall, to landscape just 30 feet in front of my house. The front of the house get...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for city lot in Longview, TX
March 19, 2008 - Just bought a city lot in Longview, TX and want to put in some plants at the periphery even before the house is built. Can you recommend any that would be from your list of East TX plants that are pa...
view the full question and answer

Waxy deposits on Magnolia fuscata from Ethel LA
June 18, 2013 - I have a 4yr old Magnolia Fascata (aka banana shrub)- I noticed that it has small oval shaped yellow waxy deposits on the branches.. I have also noticed small black ants on the branches. The unknown d...
view the full question and answer

Shrubs to grow in a narrow area no taller than 3 ft. in Cadiz, KY.
May 27, 2011 - I need to plant shrubs in a narrow area between my house and sidewalk. I have a low porch so I want the shrub to grow no taller than 3 ft. What do you recommend? It is in full sun.
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