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

Sunday - November 28, 2010

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives
Title: Replacement for non-native Sago palms in Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have two pillars, one on each side of our front door. There is a sago palm in front of each pillar. It is a dramatic and beautiful look, but the palms, facing north and in shade, are growing so that their trunks are showing. I am looking for a plant to replace these which will provide a similar look. Thanks

ANSWER:

Cycas revoluta, Sago palm is native to southern Japan, and therefore falls out of our area of expertise. Please read this Dave's Garden forum, especially the negative comments, for more reasons why it should not be grown in our landscapes.  Your comment that the plants are growing trunks that show is not surprising. This page of images from Google of the Sago Palm shows many of them with trunks showing.

Your request for a plant to replace the Sago palm, with a similar look, may not be so easy. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is dedicated to the growth, propagation and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which the plant is being grown. One possibility is Rhapidophyllum hystrix (Needle palm), which is not a true palm, and as you can see from this USDA Plant Profile, it grows natively in swampy areas of southeastern states. Another possibility would be a large fern, which would do well in the shady condition you describe, and some are evergreen. Some we would suggest are:

Athyrium filix-femina (Common ladyfern) - 2 to 3 ft., deciduous

Dryopteris ludoviciana (Southern woodfern) - 3 to 6 ft., deciduous

Osmunda cinnamomea (Cinnamon fern) - 1 to 3 ft., deciduous

Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas fern) - evergreen, 2 to 3 ft

Thelypteris kunthii (Wood fern) - semi-evergreen, to 5 ft. tall

From our Native Plant Image Gallery:


Rhapidophyllum hystrix


Athyrium filix-femina


Dryopteris ludoviciana


Osmunda cinnamomea


Polystichum acrostichoides


Thelypteris kunthii

 

 

 

 

More Non-Natives Questions

Problems with non-native weeping willow in Villanova PA
July 03, 2009 - My weeping willow (6 years old,80+ft tall),up until this year used to be full and healthy. Last year I trimmed the lower portion of the trunk by cutting off the low hanging branches, but this year so ...
view the full question and answer

Kerrville Soil for Vegetables
May 03, 2012 - We are moving to our vacation home in Kerrville, TX and plan on putting in a vegetable garden on the sunny north side of our house. I'm assuming that your answer to the person inquiring about "soil...
view the full question and answer

Mealybugs on non-native Lady Palm in Houston
November 30, 2009 - Rather than dabbing rubbing alcohol on the leaves of an indoor lady palm infested with mealybugs,since the infestation is widespread, would spraying the palm with the rubbing alcohol be effective?
view the full question and answer

Dwarf Form of Japanese Blueberry?
March 17, 2016 - Is there a dwarf variety of Japanese blueberry that will grow in my area? Or is it so non-native that it's not in your category?
view the full question and answer

Cat deterents
May 01, 2007 - I was wondering if there is such a plant that will deter cats from going in your gardens. I have a problem with them using my garden as a litter box, and had heard that there was a plant that the...
view the full question and answer

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