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?


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

Friday - August 24, 2012

From: Murphy, NC
Region: Southwest
Topic: Seed and Plant Sources, Groundcovers, Wildflowers
Title: Wildflowers for Murphy NC Clay
Answered by: Larry Larson


I live on a ridge in Murphy NC. The property has trees so most of the land is in partial shade. The soil is good 'ole mountain red clay. I have some steep bankings in front of the house that I would like to grow wildflowers. Any advice as to what would work in clay soil and where would I obtain the plants?


   Sure, I found a couple answers that come pretty close to this that Mr Smarty Plants has already addressed.   This one is really close as it concerns a shaded bank near Charlotte

  I also like to scan native plants that might add for this specific situation in addition to those suggested previously.  Here is a link to the North Carolina Collection.  This can be searched for specific attributes such as partial shade and height.  After that, I read the records to see whether it was speccifically mentioned that they do well in clay.  You didn't mention whether the banks are relatively wet or dry soil.  I noticed only a few that mention dry clay as a good soil!

Here is a selection of wildflowers that specifically mention that they do well in clay and should help anchor the slope while also adding some seasonal color:

Dry:   Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis), Monarda citriodora (Lemon beebalm), Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot)

Moist:   Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed), Conoclinium coelestinum (Blue mistflower)Asclepias incarnata (Swamp milkweed)Helianthus angustifolius (Swamp sunflower)Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)Lobelia siphilitica (Great blue lobelia)Phlox divaricata (Wild blue phlox)

   Where could you obtain the plants?  My first option would be to check out the suppliers in North Carolina that support the Wildflower Center.  Here is my search centered around Murphy NC.  I notice that several seed companies listed are 100% native!


From the Image Gallery

Lanceleaf coreopsis
Coreopsis lanceolata

Lemon beebalm
Monarda citriodora

Wild bergamot
Monarda fistulosa

Asclepias tuberosa

Swamp sunflower
Helianthus angustifolius

Cardinal flower
Lobelia cardinalis

More Wildflowers Questions

Origins of the Name For Blackfoot Daisies
April 20, 2013 - Can you tell me why blackfoot daisies are named “blackfoot”?
view the full question and answer

Propagation of wildflower seeds
November 13, 2008 - I recently planted seeds for bluebonnets, winecups and pink evening primrose. The bluebonnets have germinated and are growing, but no sign of the other two. Do the winecups and pink evening primro...
view the full question and answer

How and when to harvest bluebonnets.
April 30, 2010 - A previous answer mentioned harvesting bluebonnet seeds by pulling up the whole plant when the seed pods turn brown. Two clarifications - when do the seed pods turn brown as these plants are hard to ...
view the full question and answer

Flowers for Central Texas wedding in May
September 27, 2008 - Hi there! I am getting married in Marble Falls, TX in May. My soon to be husband and I are very eco-conscious, and were wondering what type of flowers are local and in season for a Central Texas weddi...
view the full question and answer

Spots on bluebonnets from Godley TX
April 21, 2012 - Hi Mr. Smarty Plants! I'm trying to separate rumor and folktales from fact when it comes to bluebonnets in Texas. I notice that bluebonnet blossoms have a double white spot on the center petal tha...
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center