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

Tuesday - October 23, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Suitable container plants for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford


Hi, I see some info on native house plants, but not much. I live in an apartment that doesn't get much direct sun (maybe 2 hours a day) -- is there anything for me native-wise (Austin) if I have to have my plants inside?


House plants can be a problem for those searching for natives, which we heartily endorse. This member of the Smarty Plants Team also lives in an apartment in Austin. I have a history of large gardens with native trees and plants, so it was particularly difficult for me to adjust to what I call my "cement garden," a 6' x 12' porch attached to my apartment.

I do not, personally, particularly care for house plants. They are often non-native tropicals that can tolerate or adapt to the conditions of an indoor environment. However, for my porch, I have found a very satisfying solution, which is succulents. If you will pardon our laziness, we will ask you to read another article about succulents used in container gardens, which also addresses this subject for Austin.

Most succulents can tolerate cold temperatures, but they are also protected by being near a heated building. My cement garden faces northwest, so there is a lot of shade in the early part of the day, and a lot of sunlight and heat in the later part of the day. To my surprise, succulents can tolerate quite a bit of shade, but also quite a bit of heat. I rarely water them more than once a week. For potted succulents growing on a porch, we are not so picky about the plants being native to the area because they are unlikely to escape into the soil around your apartment and become invasive. Just about any nursery, sometimes even the grocery store, will have an assortment of colorful, interesting shapes-inexpensive, easy to care for and easily replaced when you get tired of them. What more could you ask?


More Container Gardens Questions

Native plants for containers on patio in Houston
January 30, 2010 - What native plants in Texas (I live in Houston) will do well in pots on my patio- they get about 1/2 day sunlight. Is there anything shrub-like that will live from year to year? Thank you
view the full question and answer

Decline of indoor lemon cypress
June 25, 2008 - I received a lemon cypress as a gift. I have kept it indoors in bright light and tried to keep it moist. When I received the plant the foliage was soft and now it has become brittle and dry even tho...
view the full question and answer

Hanging basket container plants for butterflies and birds
April 08, 2010 - Looking for ideas for hanging baskets that would attract butterflies or birds for interest to a shut-in in North Texas. These would be outside of southwest-facing windows that overlook a paved parkin...
view the full question and answer

Type of clumping bamboo for outdoor planters from Plano TX
March 25, 2014 - What type of clumping bamboo can be grown outdoors in planters in Dallas,TX?
view the full question and answer

Replanting a blue agave in Rio Rancho NM
January 11, 2010 - I have acquired a Blue Agave, approximately 4-5 ft high. It still appears quite healthy. It was used over the holiday season for display purposes in a liquor store. Unfortunately, the root ball has be...
view the full question and answer

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