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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.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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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!

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Monday - May 16, 2011

From: Hattiesburg, MS
Region: Southeast
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Soils, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs
Title: Plants for red clay in Hattiesburg, MS
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Looking for plants and flowers to plant in red clay?

ANSWER:

We don't know if the flooding that is going on in Mississippi right now is affecting you, but we would imagine that the clay in your garden is the least of your worries. Assuming that you will be able to garden there again, we will make some long range suggestions and help you find plants that can adapt to a clay soil. 

We will recommend only plants native to your area of Mississippi. This is the commitment of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, that of using native plants, because those plants will be accustomed by centuries of experience to the rainfall, soils and climate of that area. They will need less water, and virtually no fertilizer and will be more resistant to insect damage and disease. You can go to the page on each plant to learn what soils it tolerates, as well as how much sun it can take, and so forth.

We will go first to our Recommended Species section and select on Mississippi on the map. That will give us a list of 143  plants native to Mississippi that are usually commercially available and considered dependable in that area. Since you did not mention anything about the amount of sun available or soil moisture, we will leave that for you to find on your search. On the right hand sidebar, select "herb" (herbaceous blooming plants) under General Appearance and Narrow Your Search, giving you a choice of 48 herbaceous blooming plants. If you watch the areas where you want to plant, you could log the number of hours each area is in the sun. We consider "sun" to be six or more hours of sunlight a day, "part sun" 2 to 6 hours, and "shade", less than 2 hours. You can also select trees, shrubs, succulents, grasses and ferns in the same way, as well as different light requirements and even bloom color and time of blooming. We will try to find some plants without regard to sun times but searching for toleration of clay soils, and you can refine your search later.

There are also things you can do to remediate clay soil, to give it better drainage and access by the tiny new roots of plants to the nutrients in the soil. From gardenguides.com here is an article on Composting for Clay Soil. Another article, from Fine Gardening, discusses Improving Clay Soil.

Follow each plant link to our page on that plant and note the soil types, sun time and water needs.

Herbaceous Blooming Plants for Clay Soil in Forrest County MS:

Callirhoe papaver (Woodland poppy-mallow)

Coreopsis lanceolata (Lanceleaf coreopsis)

Lobelia cardinalis (Cardinal flower)

Monarda fistulosa (Wild bergamot)

From our Image Gallery:


Callirhoe papaver


Coreopsis lanceolata


Lobelia cardinalis


Monarda fistulosa

 

 

 

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