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 - March 05, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: User Comments, Soils, Shrubs
Title: Agarita suggestion for Houston area
Answered by: Nan Hampton


Another possible plant for the following question is agarita. The question: "Looking for a very, very, thorny three or four foot tall shrub for in front of windows to deter break-ins. Considering Rosa Rugosa rose but it is not native."


Thank you for your suggestion for question #8975. If the person asking the question had been from Austin or Central Texas, Mahonia trifoliolata (Agarita) would have been my first recommendation, too.   However, the questioner is from Sugar Land, Texas in Fort Bend County—adjacent to Harris County and adjoining the Houston metropolitan area.  If you look at the USDA Plants Database distribution map, you will see that agarita doesn't occur in Fort Bend or Harris Counties (if you click on the map, it will add the county names) nor anywhere along the upper Gulf Coast of Texas.  If you look at the GROWING CONDITIONS on the agarita species page, you will see that the "Soil Description:  Rocky, limestone soil" certainly doesn't match soils in the Houston area. In short, the habitat in Sugar Land/Houston won't support growing agaritas.  You can see a map of the Soils of Texas with descriptions of the various soil regions of Texas from the State Historical Society's Texas Almanac.  Additionally, the humidity for Houston area (average of 90% in the morning to 63% average in the afternoon) is  higher than that for Austin in Central Texas (average of 83% in the morning and 59% in the afternoon).


More Soils Questions

Failure to thrive of Hamelia patens in Laredo
September 19, 2008 - I have a question regarding Hamelias patens(firebush)that I have been trying to grow for 2 years. I live in Laredo, Texas and this area should be an excellent climate for this plant. I planted 12 of t...
view the full question and answer

Plants for red clay in Hattiesburg, MS
May 16, 2011 - Looking for plants and flowers to plant in red clay?
view the full question and answer

Re-landscaping in Stephenville, TX.
November 17, 2012 - I prefer native plants. We are re-landsacaping, so I need grass, ground cover, vines and flowers to plant in our back yard. We have many trees and the whole yard is shady. A small area might be con...
view the full question and answer

What to do with soil left over from new driveway in Austin
January 07, 2011 - When we had a new driveway put in in Mid-December, the topsoil and weedy grass was scraped into a low pile. I watered it and covered it with black plastic to kill all the plant matter. How long should...
view the full question and answer

Cedar sage not blooming in pots in Austin
September 14, 2012 - I have cedar sage (salvia roemeriana) in containers on a dappled-shade apartment patio in Austin, TX. This is their first season here, transplanted in May (it's now September). All the plants have 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