Rent Shop 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

Wednesday - April 30, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Planting, Seasonal Tasks, Seeds and Seeding
Title: Too late to begin planting in May in Austin?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Is it too late to begin planting in May? I live in Austin Texas and have finally completed my plans for a native Texas landscaping (plants and grass) of my front yard. I'd like to get the landscaping done this year but worry that it may be too hard on the plants to plant them in May. What do you recommend?

ANSWER:

If it's not too late, it's getting pretty close. Please read this article on Gardening Timeline from our How-To Articles to get some feel for the best times to do planting. This is not to say you have to leave your landscape bare until Fall, that's not a good idea, either, because weeds know no season. However, you need to get going just as soon as possible.

Don't try to transplant anything bare-root unless it's absolutely necessary. Container-grown plants that have been kept watered and look healthy have a better chance. And don't go out and buy everything at once. At the nursery, the plants are often in shade areas, and are watered regularly, but if you have a whole lot of stuff at home at once, it is going to start wilting and suffering. Unless you have professional help digging and planting, you could lose your plant before you ever get your hole dug.

Especially woody plants, shrubs, trees, need to get in the ground and start getting water, as they are going to be prone to transplant shock. You should stick a hose in the fresh soil around the plant and let water dribble slowly into the hole until water appears on the surface. This should be repeated every couple of days until the plant seems well-established. Bedding plants and plugs of grass can also be planted, but, again, will need some extra water for a while. If you take any plant out of its pot and it seems to be root-bound, that is, the roots are going around and around in the shape of the pot, clip some of those roots. It may seem brutal, but the plant needs to be forced to put its roots out into the soil where it is going to grow. If those roots are left alone, the plant will strangle itself. Any planting is better done late in the afternoon, where it will begin to cool off and not be such a strain on the plant. In Austin, the heat is a far greater threat to our plants than any cold could ever be.

Seeds for wildflowers still should be held and planted in the Fall, in the natural cycle of planting the same time the plants are dropping their seeds. In case you have not already read it, see this article on A Guide to Native Plant Gardening. And, finally, consider the soil you are putting those fresh young roots into. See this article on Composting; this is something you can start in the summer and keep doing year round. It is good for all soils, improving texture and drainage and helping keep the roots cool (or warm, in the winter). If you haven't already purchased or ordered your native plants, here is a list of area Native Plant Suppliers that can help you.

 

More Planting Questions

Source for trees from Burnet TX
August 19, 2012 - I am desperately searching the central Texas area for Pistacia Mexicana male and female trees to buy. I would like about four, maybe more. I live in the Killeen-Lampasas area and have been to seve...
view the full question and answer

Replacing river birch from Maple Grove MN
April 22, 2014 - How soon after taking out a river birch clump tree and grinding the stump would we be able to plant a new birch clump?
view the full question and answer

Splash-proof plants from Oakton VA
October 01, 2012 - Hi Mr Smarty Plants, Re: low, evergreen ground cover, Northern Virginia The bare soil around my freshly painted screen porch splashes up onto the white framing when it rains so I am looking for ...
view the full question and answer

Damaged newly planted Gaura in Austin
April 16, 2010 - Hello yet again! This past Friday we attended the plant sale where we got lots of goodies to start a new bed. The plants were all planted on Sunday. All of them are doing fine, even beginning to...
view the full question and answer

When to reseed wildflowers in a drought year?
October 18, 2011 - My acreage with extensive wildflowers was mowed in 2010 before annuals had seeded. Only a few returned this year. Considering the predicted lonterm drought should I postpone reseeding this fall?
view the full question and answer

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