Contact Us Host an Event Volunteer Join

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

Thursday - December 17, 2015

From: Allen, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Plant Lists, Pollinators, Shrubs, Wildflowers
Title: Shrubs for Birds and Bees in North Texas
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

I have a small backyard and would love to grow native plants for North Texas. I don't think I can grow trees, but for sure can do 1-2 crape myrtle-size shrubs. I have some rose of Sharon's going on now along with some basil/butterfly peas. Open to wildflowers/herbs and shrubs. I would also love to help birds too if it is at all possible to kill two birds in one - helping the bees and the birds!

ANSWER:

A good place to start is the Native Plant Database on our website. Narrow your search by selecting Texas, Shrub, Perennial, Sun, Moist Soil and 6-12 feet in height. This will give you about a dozen shrubs to consider. Take a look at the "Benefit" section on each plant when you have finished your search and you will be able to see all the wildlife uses for each plant. Many attract birds, bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Once you have finished your search of shrubs change the search criteria to "herb" for herbaceous plants to get some wildflower suggestions.

Some of the best shrubs to consider for pollinators and birds are:

Aloysia gratissima (whitebrush or beebrush)

A fragrant, slender, erect shrub to 10 ft. with squarish stems, generally light gray bark, and branches sometimes bearing sharp tips. Leaves up to 1 inch long by 5/16 inch wide but often smaller, usually in clusters along the stems. Flowers small, white, crowded on spikes up to 3 inches long and extending above the leaves, appearing from March to November. As the name beebush suggests, this is a honey plant. It also provides browse for wildlife.

Amorpha fruticosa (indigo bush)

False indigo-bush is a 6-10 ft., loose, airy shrub which often forms dense thickets. Plants develop a leggy character with the majority of their pinnately compound, fine-textured foliage on the upper third of the plant. Leaflets velvety on the lower surface, margins frequently almost parallel, often abruptly rounded at both ends and with a notch at the tip. Flowers small, purple to dark blue with yellow stamens extending beyond the single petal, crowded in narrow, 3-6 in., spikelike clusters at or near the ends of the branchlets, appearing from April to June. Fruit small, up to 3/8 inch long and with blisterlike glands visible under a 10x hand lens. This is a deciduous plant. Nectar-bees, Nectar-butterflies, Nectar-insects, Browse. High deer resistance.

Clethra alnifolia (coastal pepperbush)

Coastal sweet-pepper or summer sweet is a narrow, 6-12 ft., deciduous shrub, which often spreads into mounded clumps. A tall, many-branched, leafy shrub with spike-like, upright clusters of fragrant white flowers. The shrub has erect, multiple stems; exfoliating bark; and simple, oval, toothed leaves which turn dull yellow to orange in fall. The dense, narrow, cylindric flower spikes are often clustered together at branch ends. Fragrant flowers are white and are followed by brown capsules which persist through winter.

This shrub forms sizable patches and is remarkably free of any disease, insect, or physiological problems. Its dry fruiting capsules remain long after flowering and help identify this plant in winter. Bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds use flowers. Many birds and mammals eat the fruit.

Lindera benzoin (Northern spicebush)

Northern spicebush is a single- or few-stemmed, deciduous shrub, 6-12 ft. tall, with glossy leaves and graceful, slender, light green branches. Leaves alternate on the branchlets, up to 6 inches long and 2 1/2 inches wide, upper surface dark green, lower surface lighter in color, obovate, tapering more gradually to the base than to the tip, tip somewhat extended margins without teeth or lobes. Dense clusters of tiny, pale yellow flowers bloom before the leaves from globose buds along the twigs. Flowers occur in umbel-like clusters and are followed by glossy red fruit. Both the fruit and foliage are aromatic. Leaves turn a colorful golden-yellow in fall.

In the North this plant is thought of as the “forsythia of the wilds” because its early spring flowering gives a subtle yellow tinge to many lowland woods where it is common. A tea can be made from the aromatic leaves and twigs. Attracts birds and butterflies.

 

From the Image Gallery


Whitebrush
Aloysia gratissima

Indigo bush
Amorpha fruticosa

Coastal pepperbush
Clethra alnifolia

Northern spicebush
Lindera benzoin

More Wildflowers Questions

Best time for wildflower planting in the Ozarks
April 13, 2011 - Dear Mr. Smarty Plants, I live in the Ozarks, and have an open bottomland valley area I want to transform into more natives for many reasons. I am starting a 2 acre field of NATIVE grasses (warm sea...
view the full question and answer

Will a gift of bluebonnet seeds grow in Massachusetts?
July 06, 2009 - I recently received a gift of bluebonnet seeds and would like to know if they are suitable to grow in Massachusetts. We live in Zone 5. If so, would they be considered an annual due to our hard winter...
view the full question and answer

Light requirements for Heartleaf Skullcap from Smithville TX
June 29, 2011 - How much sun or shade does Heartleaf Skullcap need?
view the full question and answer

Native Plants for Galveston
February 12, 2012 - I'm looking for low maintenance, drought tolerant plants for Galveston, on the bay side, in a well drained area with morning sun. I was thinking of Phlox, Muhly grass, Lantana.....and I am looking f...
view the full question and answer

Illegal to pick roadside wildflowers from Vilonia AR
May 11, 2013 - Is it illegal to pick roadside wildflowers in Arkansas?
view the full question and answer

Support the Wildflower Center by Donating Online or Becoming a Member today.