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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.

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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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Tuesday - October 23, 2012

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Container Gardens, Cacti and Succulents
Title: Suitable container plants for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

Hi, I see some info on native house plants, but not much. I live in an apartment that doesn't get much direct sun (maybe 2 hours a day) -- is there anything for me native-wise (Austin) if I have to have my plants inside?

ANSWER:

House plants can be a problem for those searching for natives, which we heartily endorse. This member of the Smarty Plants Team also lives in an apartment in Austin. I have a history of large gardens with native trees and plants, so it was particularly difficult for me to adjust to what I call my "cement garden," a 6' x 12' porch attached to my apartment.

I do not, personally, particularly care for house plants. They are often non-native tropicals that can tolerate or adapt to the conditions of an indoor environment. However, for my porch, I have found a very satisfying solution, which is succulents. If you will pardon our laziness, we will ask you to read another article about succulents used in container gardens, which also addresses this subject for Austin.

Most succulents can tolerate cold temperatures, but they are also protected by being near a heated building. My cement garden faces northwest, so there is a lot of shade in the early part of the day, and a lot of sunlight and heat in the later part of the day. To my surprise, succulents can tolerate quite a bit of shade, but also quite a bit of heat. I rarely water them more than once a week. For potted succulents growing on a porch, we are not so picky about the plants being native to the area because they are unlikely to escape into the soil around your apartment and become invasive. Just about any nursery, sometimes even the grocery store, will have an assortment of colorful, interesting shapes-inexpensive, easy to care for and easily replaced when you get tired of them. What more could you ask?

 

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