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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

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 13, 2013

From: San Francisco, CA
Region: California
Topic: Water Gardens, Herbs/Forbs
Title: How to keep plants alive in a pot beside a patio waterfall.
Answered by: Jimmy Mills

QUESTION:

Mr. Smarty Plants, I have a waterfall on my patio and I can't keep my plants alive in the flower pot next to waterfall. Is that beacuse of algae produced by waterfall? If so, can you please recommend what type of plants would grow well in that flower pot. I do clean the waterfall to keep the algae at bay. I live in San Francisco, CA, the area does get good afternoon sun. Thanking you in advance for your help with this. Sincerely,

ANSWER:

You don't mention the kind of plants you have in the pot, but my guess is that the culprit is too much water; not the algae.

To look for some suitable plants for this situation, let me introduce you to our Native Plant Database  which allows you to search for 7,371 native plants by scientific or common name, or choose a particular family of plants. Scroll down to our Recommend Species Lists and click on View Recommend Species page. Click on Northern California on the map, and you will get a list of 286 commercially available native plant species suitable for planned landscapes in California.  The Narrow Your Search box on the right side of the screen allows you to search for herbs that may be suited for your patio.  For example, in the box, select: California under State, herb under General Appearance, and perennial under Duration. Check both Sun and Part shade under Light requirement and wet under Soil moisture. Click on the Narrow your Search button, and you will get a  list of 12 native herbs for California that meet these criteria. Clicking on the scientific name of each plant will bring up its NPIN page which has a description of the plant along with growth characteristics and requirements, and in most cases, photos. As you look through the list, try to match up the plant with your growing conditions.

Here is a previous answer for a question from California that is similar. In your case, the problem seems to be too much water; in the previous question, it is too much shade. I think there is some information you can use here.

 

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