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Mr. Smarty Plants - Deer resistant plants from New Braunfels TX

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Friday - August 31, 2012

From: New Braunfels, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Invasive Plants, Non-Natives, Xeriscapes, Compost and Mulch, Soils, Watering, Deer Resistant, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Deer resistant plants from New Braunfels TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I have a 1/2 yard covered by a tree, shady. Bermuda grass previous owner planted has all turned brown this summer. I don't have lots of money to work with but would love to landscape that side of front yard. Tree roots have popped up in areas, so I bought a truck load of soil and smoothed it out everywhere but have no idea what can grow under a tree, in a deer heavy area (New Braunfels, Tx), and what I could do myself without hiring experts (again, very limited funds). The neighbors (who all have St. Augustine, thick and green) have started to look strangely at us (my imagination???). Help or if you could direct me to someone I can ask questions? I read a lot but can't seem to figure out what to do (brain is getting old).

ANSWER:

When your neighbors give your browning bermudagrass funny looks, give them looks that say "If your St. Augustine is looking so green and lush, you are watering more than you should be in this drought area." Both bermudagrass and St. Augustine are non-native to North America so, since the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native to North America as well as to the area in which they grow naturally, we don't like them anyway. In addition to that, bermudagrass is one of the most invasive weeds in the South, and St. Augustine is a water gulper. We saw some statistics recently that said it was estimated that 40% of the drinking water in Central Texas went to watering St. Augustine lawns. Which would you rather have, clean drinking water or green lawns?

To go on with the dead bermudagrass you have, if that tree is shading the area, bermudagrass won't do well, anyway, it is a full sun grass. And not a whole lot is going to be willing to grow under that tree. If the tree is an oak, pecan or black walnut, it will exhibit allelopathy, which means it is capable of exuding substances which discourage competition from other plants beneath it. Some other trees have the same capability, but since we don't know what your tree is, we can't comment on that.

We are going to recommend forgetting about a lawn and going to more of a xeriscape motif. We recently answered a question about xeriscaping, which we recommend you read. It is from Memphis TN, but addresses the same issues yours does, including getting rid of bermudagrass. We are going to take you to our Native Plant Database to find plants native to Central Texas that can replace the grass as the opportunity presents itself. None of these methods are expensive, and all can be done gradually, as you have the time and funds to take them on. We do recommend very strongly that, with the exception of solarization of the bermudagrass, you do no planting until it cools off. Perennials can be planted in Fall or Spring, as you get beds ready for them, and woody plants (trees and shrubs) should be planted from November to January.

Since you live in Comal County, not far from Austin and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, you might enjoy a day trip to the Center for our Fall Plant Sale. If you have not visited the Center before, you will find it an education in the use of native plants, and everything on sale is native to Central Texas.

Before you start selecting plants, please read our How-To Articles on A Guide to Native Plant Gardening, and Caring for Your New Native Plants. The hardest request in your question was for deer-resistant plants, so let's start out with our Deer Resistant Plant List. Be sure and take this reminder at the top of the list to heart:

"Deer Resistant Species

Few plants are completely deer resistant. Several factors influence deer browsing including the density of the deer population, environmental conditions such as drought, and plant palatability. Deer tend to avoid plants with aromatic foliage, tough leathery and/or hairy or prickly leaves or plants with milky latex or sap. Try using some of the plants listed here to minimize deer damage to your landscape."

When you follow plant links to our webpages on the plants on the Deer Resistant Species list, you will scroll down to the Benefits section near the bottom of the page. The plants should only be considered if they say "Deer Resistance: High." All the plants on that list are straight out of our Native Plant Database, and you can use the same sorting techniques, with lots more plant choices, but not necessarily Deer Resistant.

So, to begin: Go to our Deer Resistant Species, and using the sidebar on the right side of the page, select on Texas, and the pick a Habit (herbs, shrubs, trees, succulents, etc.). If you have already mapped out your sunny and shady areas, you can specify sun (6 hours or more a day of sun), part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun) or shade (2 hours or less of sun), as well as soil moisture. We are going to give you a sample list; follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant. In the process, you will discover how to find what you want and where it can go. There will be propagation instructions, growing conditions and, at the bottom of the page, a link to Google for even more information on that plant.

Herbs (herbaceous blooming plants) for Central Texas:

Argemone albiflora (Bluestem pricklypoppy)

Arisaema dracontium (Green dragon)

Shrubs for Central Texas"

Amorpha fruticosa (Indigo bush)

Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (Flame acanthus)

Trees for Central Texas:

Crataegus viridis (Green hawthorn)

Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii (Western soapberry)

Cactus/Succulents for Central Texas:

Agave americana (American century plant)

Hesperaloe parviflora (Red yucca)

Grass/Grasslike Plants (not mowable lawns) for Central Texas:

Aristida purpurea (Purple threeawn)

Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feathergrass)

Vines for Central Texas:

Wisteria frutescens (American wisteria)

Matelea reticulata (Green milkweed vine)

 

From the Image Gallery


Bluestem pricklypoppy
Argemone albiflora

Green dragon
Arisaema dracontium

Indigo bush
Amorpha fruticosa

Flame acanthus
Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii

Green hawthorn
Crataegus viridis

Western soapberry
Sapindus saponaria var. drummondii

American century plant
Agave americana

Red yucca
Hesperaloe parviflora

Purple threeawn
Aristida purpurea

Mexican feathergrass
Nassella tenuissima

American wisteria
Wisteria frutescens

Green milkweed vine
Matelea reticulata

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