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?

Share

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

Monday - November 18, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Rain Gardens, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Managing a wet area in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I suspect that my backyard lies at the very top of a creek watershed. However, all of the water flowing through it gets blocked by a solid stone wall. Whenever we get a significant rain event, part of my yard gets filled with about of one to at least two feet of water, which is mixed with the all the dead leaves (of my MANY trees) and the rich organic soil underneath. Most of the plants end up getting coated in mud and many get knocked down by the current. The deepest section of this area has hardly any plants growing. On, the periphery is beauty-berry, Turks-cap, hackberries and a pecan tree. I was wondering what herbaceous to shrub sized plants you think could tolerate these conditions (sun to part shade) and if you have any tips to help mitigate some of the negative effects of the flooding and poor drainage.

ANSWER:

Without being able to see the site, and with the view that our recent rains and flooding are possibly abnormal, about all we can do is make some general suggestions. First of all, much we hate to admit it, native plants cannot solve all problems.

So, you may want to consider improving drainage mechanically; that is, to bypass or maybe underpass the obstructing wall. Here is an article with a You-Tube presentation from Advanced Drainage Systems. Now, we freely admit this is an advertising site, but it does have some good suggestions.

From Better Homes and Gardens, here is an article on Improving Bad Drainage with several suggestions both on mechanical drainage and plant selection. From Garden Guides, an article on How to Fix Drainage in a Low Area in Your Yard. This article basically recommends raising the whole area with good soil to a better depth to both trap and use runoff water and to utilize plants. This sounds like the best solution to us, but only you can judge what will work on your property.

Now, to turn to the selection of plants to fix this situation. This is what we call a "rain garden," which can house plants that tolerate more water on their feet at some times, but be retained by some watering in dry times. From our How-To Articles, here is an article on Water Gardening. From the City of Austin "grow green" program, here is an Earth-Wise Guide to Rain Gardens. This article also has a list of suggested plants for Central Texas Rain Gardens. At a quick glance most, if not all, of these plants are native to Central Texas, which is what we recommend. To check on growing conditions, water needs and pictures of these plants, go to our Native Plant Database, type the name of the plant into the "scientific or common names" box and click on GO. This should take you to our webpage on that plant, where you can get information.

 

 

More Rain Gardens Questions

Retention pond from Hendersonville NC
April 24, 2012 - We have a retention pond that has recently been cleaned and we would like to plant perennial native plant and grass seeds that will enhance the appearance and contribute to the natural process of filt...
view the full question and answer

Plants for a bioswale in TX
February 18, 2011 - Dear Mr.Smarty Plants, What kind of plants are best suited for a bioswale in Edinburg, Texas?
view the full question and answer

Smarty Plants on water-absorbing plants
July 19, 2005 - I am looking for water-absorbing plants for L.A. zone. I am hoping this type of vegetation would ease the water retention problem at the planter right next to my basement. Is this a feasible solutio...
view the full question and answer

Landscaping recommendations for site in Dubuque, IA
March 27, 2010 - I need a seed recommendation. Here are the variables: Location: Dubuque, IA (east Central Iowa) Soil type: Sandy to sandy and gravelly. Part is a riverbank facing east. Steep bank then flat to ...
view the full question and answer

plants for a rain garden's moist area in Central Texas
January 15, 2015 - I am looking for local natives to plant in the wet portion of a rain garden/bioswale. Can you help, please?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.
E-NEWSLETTER | BECOME A MEMBER | DONATE NOW | MEDIA | JOBS | SITEMAP | STAFF INTRANET
© 2016 Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center