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
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

Straw that broke the camel's back.
September 01, 2009 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I keep forgetting which day I am supposed to water and my St. Augustine lawn has turned into the neighborhood eyesore. Where can I go to learn more about this drought tolera...
view the full question and answer

Groundcover for a Sunny, Steep Slope in Maryland
April 29, 2013 - I need a groundcover for a sunny dry steep slope in Towson, Maryland. The slope goes from the parking lot down to a deck area.
view the full question and answer

Drought resistant flowering plants for Spring, TX
January 25, 2012 - Hi Mr. Smarty Pants. I live in Spring Tx. and wanted to plant a garden in my front yard. I'm looking for flowering plants that are colorful, easy to manage, and drought resistant but so far can't fi...
view the full question and answer

Pollinators for Palm Springs, CA
June 18, 2015 - Just moved to Palm Springs, California. Hot and dry, desert region. What bee and pollinator-friendly plants would do well with full afternoon sun?
view the full question and answer

Deer Resistant, Fast Growing Groundcover Suggestions for Georgia
April 20, 2013 - Our driveway is 1/4 mile in length and is steep on both sides (one side up one side down). It currently has grass that our contractor planted using seed when we built our house. We are unable to cut t...
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