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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.

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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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Thursday - March 20, 2014

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Propagation, Seeds and Seeding
Title: Seeds to scatter from Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Which seeds are good to throw and scatter on lawns or garden beds? Seeds that germinate easily, I suppose?

ANSWER:

We are not crazy about throwing or sprinkling any seeds on the ground, actually. Birds, insects and small mammals would be happy to dine on them. Most seeds need good contact to earth in order to germinate, and many sprout best beneath the soil. Before any planting is done, by seed, transplant or division, the soil must be prepared to accept that plant or it will not thrive, and probably not live. The answer to your question about which seed is good is that the best seed to put into your garden is a seed to a desirable plant that is native to your area.

Sprinkling any seeds on lawns is pretty well doomed from the start; again, you have the need for seed-to-earth contact which you will not get with grass interfering. And having the seed on top of that grass will make it that much easier for the beasties to make a meal off the seeds.

What seeds you  plant, where you plant them, when you plant them and how you plant them are all dependent on what plant you hope will come up from them. We are going to choose some plants that are native to the Austin area and when you follow the plant link to our webpage on that plant you will have the opportuniity to see the suggested method of propagation, what color blooms (if any) it will have, usually some pictures of the plant, even sometimes of the seeds, whether it is annual or perennial,  sunlight, water and soil needs, growing conditions. At the bottom of that page, under Additional Resources, there will be links to the USDA Plant Profile Map and Google on that plant.

So: (1) Select the spot  (2) Decide what type plant (grass? tree? perennial? etc) you want in that spot (3) Identify the growing conditions of that spot (sunlight? soil? moisture?) (4) look at webpages of plants native (in your case) to Travis County (5) compare the growing conditions in that spot to the recommended growing conditions of the selected plant (6) If you find a good fit, find out the best way to propagate that plant and do it!

Plants suitable for the Austin area:

Asclepias tuberosa (Butterflyweed  herbaceous blooming plant

Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum (Chile pequin) subshrub

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)  shrub

Chilopsis linearis (Desert willow) tree

Hesperaloe parviflora (Red yucca) cactus/succulent

Adiantum capillus-veneris (Southern maidenhair fern) fern

Bignonia capreolata (Crossvine) vine

By the way, this member of the Mr. Smarty Plants team chose some of her own favorites for this area  and most, if not all, of them grow at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

 

From the Image Gallery


Butterflyweed
Asclepias tuberosa

Chile pequin
Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum

American beautyberry
Callicarpa americana

Desert willow
Chilopsis linearis

Red yucca
Hesperaloe parviflora

Southern maidenhair fern
Adiantum capillus-veneris

Crossvine
Bignonia capreolata

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