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

Friday - May 21, 2010

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: What will grow under a magnolia in Houston?
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

What will grow under a magnolia tree in Houston? The area is shade and partly sunny.

ANSWER:

From a previous answer   about planting under magnolias:

Magnolias are allelopathic to other plants.  This means that the magnolia produces chemicals that inhibit the germination of seeds and growth of plants that are potential competitors for its resources.  The roots and fallen debris (leaves, flowers, etc.) from the magnolia tree contain substances that limit the growth of other competing species that grow underneath it. In the case of magnolias, the substances are sesquiterpene lactones—costunolide and parthenolide—(see Abdelgalel, A. M. and F. Hasinaga.  2007. "Allelopathic potential of two sesquiterpene lactones from Magnolia grandiflora L." Biochemical Systematics and Ecology Vol. 35, no. 11, pp. 737-742.)  A complicating factor is that many plants won't grow in the dense shade created by the magnolia tree—or any other tree, for that matter.

I could find no list of plants that are resistant to the allelopathic effects of magnolias.  So, my recommendations to you are:  1) keep the debris from the magnolia cleaned up from the area where you want the flowers/plants to grow, and 2) choose native plants that are shade-tolerant. There is no guarantee that these will do well, either. Follow each link to the page on that particular plant to learn about propagation, conditions, expected size, etc. Here are a few recommended shade-tolerant plants that are native to Harris County or a nearby Texas county:

Shrubs for Shade in Houston:

Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry)

Hibiscus laevis (halberdleaf rosemallow)

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry)

Herbaceous Blooming Plants for Shade in Houston: 

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Lobelia cardinalis (cardinalflower)

Salvia coccinea (blood sage)

Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Callicarpa americana

Hibiscus laevis

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

Coreopsis lanceolata

Lobelia cardinalis

Salvia coccinea

Podophyllum peltatum

 

 

 

 

More Trees Questions

Potential danger of oak wilt in live oaks in Dallas, TX
February 17, 2005 - Do you have or know of any recent publications that discuss a potential oak wilt problem in live oaks in the Dallas area? We strongly believe that live oaks have a great landscape value and are tryi...
view the full question and answer

Problems with Ashe juniper from Lakeway TX
May 25, 2013 - Dear Sir/Madam, I have been living for the last three years in Lakeway, Texas approximately 20 miles west of Austin. In my back garden there are several ashe junipers about 15-20ft tall. However...
view the full question and answer

Evergreen Conifer for Moist, Full Sun Site in Ohio
May 09, 2015 - We need to find an evergreen conifer, classic holiday-shaped tree that will tolerate a very moist, but not soaking wet, site in full sun.
view the full question and answer

Freeze-damaged Texas Mountain Laurel in Austin, TX.
May 05, 2011 - I have a Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora) that is several years old. During this past winter, one of the freezes we had split one of the largest trunk right below the soil line. T...
view the full question and answer

Fast growing, native fruit trees for Northeast Texas
January 23, 2007 - What kind of fruit tree will grow fast and be pretty in Northeast Texas?
view the full question and answer

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