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 - 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 Trees Questions

Caring for Texas Buckeye in Buda TX
February 07, 2011 - I have a Texas Buckeye that is planted in a moderate amount of shade. It is growing very slowly, and only holds on to it's leaves from late March to August. It has been in the ground for about 4-5 ye...
view the full question and answer

Tree near a patio in Tennessee
January 02, 2009 - What type of tree would you plant near a patio (new home and yard) that gets afternoon sun? Thanks
view the full question and answer

Small tree for container near pool in Houston
June 24, 2010 - Can you recommend a small tree that I can grow in a pot for shade? Looking for minimal mess because it will be near the pool. How big should the pot be?
view the full question and answer

Disagreement on amending soil for planting from Austin
September 01, 2012 - In today's newspaper column, you answered a question about transplanting a redbud. You said to follow the instructions on the WFC web site, except you recommended adding compost to the backfill soil....
view the full question and answer

Why will my Butternut trees not produce nuts in Tennessee?
May 06, 2009 - I have 2 butternut trees planted about 20 ft from each other. I see the long blossoms on each tree but I have not gotten any nuts from either tree. I do not know if I have a male and female or if th...
view the full question and answer

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