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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.

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Tuesday - June 18, 2013

From: Bee Cave, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Ferns, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Container plants for part shade in Bee Cave TX
Answered by: Leslie Uppinghouse and Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Dear Mr Smarty Pants, I am looking for plants that will thrive on my covered porch in 3 tall planters. These are meant to help me block an unattractive view out my living room window, so they must be evergreen. I need plants that will get to be about 2 ft tall and not more than 1.5 - 2 ft wide, in order to solve my view problem. I have partial sun mostly in the morning and shade in the afternoon. I need these to be pretty low maintenance (the planters are too heavy to move, so must be freeze and heat tolerant), deer resistant and evergreen, of course. Also, they are in fairly tight space so they can't have pointy, dangerous spike ends. I went to a local nursery but nothing seemed to meet all my criteria. If you can make a suggestion, that would be great!! Thank you!

ANSWER:

The way we categorize light requirements for plants is "sun," 6 hours or more of sun a day, "part shade," 2 to 6 hours of sun a day, and "shade,"  less than 2 hours a day. We are just guessing, but we think when we search our Native Plant Database for plants to screen your front windows, it would probably be best to select "shade" as the amount of light you might be able to provide for your container plants.

First, let us suggest that you read our How-To Article on Container Gardening with Native Plants. Next, watch our video presentation on preparing containers for plants by our Horticulture Director, Andrea DeLong-Amaya. We are going to suggest, if you have not already obtained pots, that you consider stacking one pot on top of another of the same size, inverted, or using small outdoor tables, stools or even concrete blocks for your plant pot to stand on, whatever it takes to get it to the appropriate height to shield your windows. If you have a very tall pot, not all of it will be needed for plant roots, but the depth of the soil will really suck up water that the plants don't need, and soon you'll be getting mildew.

We will go to our Native Plant Database, scroll down to Combination Search and select on Texas for state, "shrub" for Habit (first search), "shade" for Light Requirement, 1-3 ft. for Height and "evergreen" for Leaf Retention. Other searches will replace "shrub" for Habit with "herb" (herbaceous blooming plant), "fern" and "succulent." We know you said you didn't want anything prickly but a lot of succulents can take some shade and not all of them are Opuntia polyacantha var. erinacea (Grizzly prickly pear). You can follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to learn its growing conditions, how much water it needs and expected mature size. We will check each plant we select to make sure it is native in or near Travis County so you can be confident it will survive in cold or heat, especially since it will be somewhat sheltered in front of your house.

Well, we got a pretty sorry turnout for our selections. We will list them but you might consider changing some of your requested characteristics - "evergreen" is usually difficult as well as "shade." You can run the search again, changing your specifications and see what you come up with.

Paxistima myrsinites (Mountain lover) - shrub, grows in Bexar County

Equisetum hyemale (Canuela) - herb, Travis Co.

Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata (Heartleaf skullcap) - herb, Travis County

Thelypteris kunthii (Wood fern) - fern, Travis Co.

If you cannot locate some of the native plants you want, go to our National Suppliers Directory, put your town and state or just your zipcode into the 'Enter Search Location" and click on GO. You will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and consultants in your general area. Each has contact information so you can inquire about availability before you go.

 

From the Image Gallery


Hairspine pricklypear
Opuntia polyacantha var. polyacantha

Oregon boxleaf
Paxistima myrsinites

Scouring-rush horsetail
Equisetum hyemale

Heartleaf skullcap
Scutellaria ovata ssp. bracteata

Wood fern
Thelypteris kunthii

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