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
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

Oregon boxleaf
Paxistima myrsinites

Yaupon
Ilex vomitoria

Agarita
Mahonia trifoliolata

Autumn sage
Salvia greggii

Coral honeysuckle
Lonicera sempervirens

More Drought Tolerant Questions

Difficulty of watering at drip line of trees from The Woodlands TX
August 18, 2011 - I'm watering my couple dozen native mature trees to make sure they survive this drought and its aftermath..and I'm reading about how to water at the drip line. But..all of my trees' drip lines ext...
view the full question and answer

Tall native grasses for privacy in Central Texas
June 29, 2013 - Hi- I am looking for a grass that will grow tall and be thick for privacy. I live here in Austin east of 35. Obviously something draught tolerant would be great! Thank you!
view the full question and answer

Native replacement for non-native Bermudagrass in Leander TX
October 16, 2011 - We have Bermuda grass. Large patches have died due to the drought and our yard has been taken over by weeds and St. Augustine grass whose seeds must have blown in. Even when the grass was in great con...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for clay soil in Southern California
August 08, 2012 - I live in Southern California and have hard packed clay soil in my yard. Could you recommend ground cover that would be green, low to the ground, require little water and survive in clay? I can't a...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for a school garden in Austin
May 14, 2009 - We are starting a native garden at our school in Central Austin, what native plants and flowers would be best to plant? The area we are planting faces east. We also need drought tolerant plants becau...
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 | STAFF
© 2015 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center