Contact Us Host an Event 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

Sunday - May 19, 2013

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Wildlife Gardens, Poisonous Plants, Shade Tolerant, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Trees
Title: Wildlife garden for Austin
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I am trying to make my backyard more wildlife friendly. I have pecan trees for the canopy and some understory shrub/trees like rough leaf dogwood and redbud. I am having a really hard time finding suitable forbs. The area is in blazing full sun until the pecans leaf out and then it becomes -full- shade. We are in east Austin so the soil is clay based and quite degraded. I have been adding compost regularly but it is a slow slow process. Would a mix of spring ephemerals with full shade plants that leaf out later work? I love color and fragrance. Maybe there are no native plants that fit this situation. I realize this setting looks nothing like the original mixed prairie. Thanks in advance for your consideration.

ANSWER:

Begin with some of our How-To Articles:

Wildlife Gardening

A Guide to Native Plant Gardening

Butterfly Gardening

In terms of what to plant under your pecan trees, we are afraid you have more problems than the alternating sun and shade, that of allelopathy of the pecan tree. Please see this previous Mr. Smarty Plants answer on the allelopathy of the pecan tree. This answer was to a question from Maryland but the information about Carya illinoinensis (Pecan) is still apropos.  You are going to have some difficulty growing any herbaceous blooming plants beneath those trees. There are a few plants known to be able to survive beneath pecans, especially grasses. We will list a few of those native to the Austin area. Also, we will suggest a couple of shade-tolerant plants that could live under the trees. However, bees and butterflies mostly prefer flowers that bloom in full sun. Follow each plant link on our list to read the growing conditions, how much light, water and what soil types each plant tolerates. Beyond that, it is going to be trial and error.

Carex texensis (Texas sedge)

Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Elymus canadensis (Canada wild rye)

Cercis canadensis (Eastern redbud)

Parthenocissus quinquefolia (Virginia creeper)

Malvaviscus arboreus (Turkscap)

Ruellia nudiflora (Violet ruellia)

Viola missouriensis (Missouri violet)

 

From the Image Gallery


Texas sedge
Carex texensis

Inland sea oats
Chasmanthium latifolium



Gulf muhly
Muhlenbergia capillaris

Eastern redbud
Cercis canadensis



Turkscap
Malvaviscus arboreus

Violet ruellia
Ruellia nudiflora

Missouri violet
Viola missouriensis

More Grasses or Grass-like Questions

Grass Groundcover for Georgia Hillside
July 07, 2016 - I am looking for a grass to cover a hillside area down to a lake. It is mostly sunny in the spring & summer, but has no moisture except any rain that falls. I am not interested in having to mow it all...
view the full question and answer

Using bamboo as a filter for odoras from a wastewater treatmen plant in College Station, TX
November 16, 2014 - My wastewater treatment plant is considering planting bamboo to create a filter for odors between it and the neighborhood. Are there any native plant alternatives that would function as well (if not b...
view the full question and answer

Small, flowering, evergreen plants for hillside in Austin.
October 27, 2007 - I have a steep, dry hillside measuring approximately 4 feet high by six feet wide. I want to plant low growing, evergreen, flowering plants across the bed that will flower as long as possible, and thr...
view the full question and answer

Identification of native wild grass in Austin
February 01, 2009 - I had some landscaping done in my yard in Austin. My aim was minimal care so I requested native Texas plants. I am plant illiterate and just now looking in the City of Austin "grow green guide" to...
view the full question and answer

Is there any bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum) in Austin, TX
August 10, 2011 - Hi there! Can you tell me if there is any Bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum) growing in the Austin area? Thank you.
view the full question and answer

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