En EspaŅol
Share

Ask Mr. Smarty Plants

Mr. Smarty Plants - Ornamental grasses under desert willows from Dallas, TX

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
Can't find the answer in our existing FAQs, submit a question to Mr. Smarty Plants.

Need help with plant identification, visit the plant identification page.
 
rate this answer
Not Yet Rated

Friday - September 06, 2013

From: Dallas, TX
Region: Select Region
Topic: Planting, Soils, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Trees
Title: Ornamental grasses under desert willows from Dallas, TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am planning on planting 3 desert willows in full sun, below the power lines at the back of my back yard in the White Rock Lake area of Dallas. I would like to plant some ornamental grasses in the beds under the willows. What ornamental grasses would do well in this situation?

ANSWER:

First of all, we're begging you, don't buy nor plant those desert willows until late Fall or early Winter. That is asking for transplant shock and early death if you plant them in the blazing heat and drought under which all of Texas is suffering. November is about as early as we would think safe and you don't want them standing in a black plastic pot having their roots fried in the sun until then, either. From our webpage on Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) here are the optimum growing conditions for this small tree.

"Growing Conditions

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun
Soil Moisture: Dry , Moist
CaCO3 Tolerance: Medium
Drought Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Well-drained limestone soils preferred, but also does well in sands, loams, clays, caliches, granitic, and rocky soils. Minimal organic content the norm.
Conditions Comments: Allow to dry out between waterings, as this will encourage more extensive waves of blooms. Avoid excessive water and fertilizer, as that can lead to overly rapid growth, fewer blooms, and a weaker plant. Prolonged saturation can result in rot. Wont grow as fast or get as large in clay soil but wont suffer there either. Can be drought-deciduous in some regions. Can survive temperatures as low as 10 degrees F."

According to this USDA Plant Profile Map, this tree is reported as growing mostly in far West Texas, and about the only county where it is reported in North Central/North East Texas is Dallas County, so it would appear you would have an appropriate soil. If you have clay soil, and you very likely do, even though Desert Willow will tolerate clay soils, it will NOT tolerate water standing on its roots, as often happens with clay soils. When you get to the cooler season and can plant your little trees, dig a bigger hole than is necessary for the roots and mix the soil from the hole with some sand, degenerated granite or (our favorite) compost. This will loosen up the clay and permit the tiny hairlike rootlets to penetrate the soil for oxygen and nutrients.

Otherwise, we think your plant choice is a good one, as it won't grow tall enough to interfere with power lines and will bloom much better with more sun. We wanted to establish first what the tree needed, as we think that is of prime importance, and then find grasses that can prosper in the same conditions. The grasses will need to be able to tolerate partial shade but not the deep shade they would encounter in a denser or evergreen tree, like live oaks. We will go to our Native Plant Database, scroll down the page to "Combination Search," indicate Texas as the state, "grass or grass like" for Habit, "moist" for Moisture Requirements, and "part shade" for Light Requirements. This will make it possible for the grasses to live in the same environment as the tree, and tolerant of the part shade the tree will cast. We will also check each of our selections on the USDA Plant Profiles to assure that the chosen grasses will do well in Dallas County. You can follow each plant link to our webpage on that plant to find out its growing conditions and soil preferences.

Native ornamental grasses for Dallas, TX:

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Andropogon gerardii (Big bluestem)

Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Poa arachnifera (Texas bluegrass)

Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

If you have difficulty in locating these plants native to Texas in local nurseries, go to our National Suppliers Directory, type in your town and state or just your zipcode in the "Enter Search Location" box, click on GO and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed suppliers and consultants in your general areal. Each have contact information so you can find out ahead of time if they have what you are looking for.

 

From the Image Gallery


Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium

Big bluestem
Andropogon gerardii

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Texas bluegrass
Poa arachnifera

Indiangrass
Sorghastrum nutans

More Shade Tolerant Questions

Screening bush for shady area
June 05, 2008 - I need some kind of bush that will act as an air conditioning blind. So far the deer have eaten or destroyed everything planted in the very shady mulch bed. What do you recommend?
view the full question and answer

Plants for a Narrow, Dry, Shaded Site in Georgia
April 03, 2014 - I am writing from Valdosta, GA. Could you please suggest three perennial shrubs and/or plants that flower at different times of the spring and summer? Also ones that can be planted in a 2 ft. wide s...
view the full question and answer

Native plants for partial shade in Pennsylvania
April 04, 2008 - Much of my growing area in Northern exposure, shade-partial shade once trees get leaves. I'm looking for native plants to use for screens and for ground-covers, grasses and edible plants.
view the full question and answer

Native turkscap failing to thrive in Shiro TX
March 19, 2013 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, Two years ago I transplanted several native (not cultivars) Drummond's turkscaps in the proximity of water oaks in the front yard. All get shade and some sun. They seemed to ...
view the full question and answer

Plants for shade native to New York
June 13, 2006 - I am gradually trying to convert my garden to all natives. I am working in a shaded area under a maple tree. Are there any varieties of epimediums/barrenwort or hellebores that are native to the nor...
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants's Facebook profile Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.

Mr. Smarty Plants wants you to be his Facebook friend. Click the Facebook icon to add yourself to Mr. Smarty Plants list of friends.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | SITEMAP
© 2014 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center