Host an Event Volunteer Join Tickets

Support the plant database you love!

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

Wednesday - April 02, 2008

From: St. Paul , MN
Region: Midwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils
Title: Possibility of growing plants in St. Peter Sandstone
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Can you grow plants or native plants in St. Peter Sandstone or amend it?

ANSWER:

Well, if we grow any plants in any kind of soil, you can bet they will be native plants. That's what we do at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center-care for, promote and propagate plants native to North America. Being mostly gardeners, and Texas gardeners at that, the first thing we had to do was figure out what St. Peter's sandstone is. We discovered that St. Peter sandstone originated as a sheet of sand in clear, shallow water near the shore of a Paleozoic sea and consists of fine to medium size, well rounded quartz grains with frosted surfaces. The extent of the formation spans north-south from Minnesota to Missouri and east-west from Illinois into Nebraska and South Dakota. In commercial applications, it is called Ottawa sand and is used for the manufacture of glass, for filter and molding sand and for abrasives.

So, we went searching for possible botanical uses for this sandstone, or just sand, if you will. We found many, many references written by geologists, but not one single botanical reference. From a practical standpoint, sand is difficult to grow anything in anyway; it is made of very large particles which don't cling together, and therefore, if you put a plant in it, fertilize the plant, and then water it, all the water (and the nutrients) are going to shoot right through and go off somewhere else. Sometimes, gardeners seek to add sand to clay soils to amend them by making them looser, but it's not recommended, because it's difficult to get the correct balance. And, we really can't imagine trying to grow anything in a soil that is used for glassmaking. If the dirt you have in your garden is predominantly composed of this sand, we would suggest raised beds with compost and topsoil, on top of the sand, not mixed with it.

 

More Compost and Mulch Questions

Xeric landscaping walls in Mansfield TX
November 15, 2009 - We have two stone, concave 10 ft. high entry walls to our private street. These are each 20 ft. in length and face the west. What xeriscaping accent plants would you recommend. Also, should we crea...
view the full question and answer

Could ammonia harm poisonous, non-native oleander in Bay Point CA
December 20, 2009 - Could ammonia harm my Oleander plant? I have been spraying ammonia under it to keep neighborhood cats from using the soil under the plant as a sand box. If so, do you have any suggestions as to what...
view the full question and answer

Eastern redcedar uprooted by snow in Arlington, TX
February 14, 2010 - During the recent snowstorm one of our juniperus virginiana fell over with the rootball looking intact and with a lot of soil all around it.Should we try to save it? It is approximately 20 feet tall ...
view the full question and answer

Conditions for growing Anacacho Orchid in Smithville TX
January 24, 2011 - What conditions (soil type, sun/shade, understory? etc.) to grow a healthy Anacacho Orchid tree? And what is the best size tree to plant?
view the full question and answer

Converting a Texas backyard to grow Xerophytic native plants
January 09, 2015 - I am planning the conversion of our backyard, about 4000 sq ft of largely St Augustine, into a grassless landscape of hardscaping and native plants. Iíve been an avid gardener of rock garden plants i...
view the full question and answer

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