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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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Wednesday - August 14, 2013

From: Marion, NC
Region: Southeast
Topic: Septic Systems, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs, Wildflowers
Title: Plants for a Septic Field in NC
Answered by: Anne Van Nest

QUESTION:

What kinds of low water plants can I plant over a new septic field in North Carolina? The area is part sun so I am concerned about having trouble getting grass started.

ANSWER:

A good place to look for tips about planting on your septic drain field is the Virginia Cooperative Extension website.  Susan Day and Ellen Silva suggest that shallow-rooted herbaceous plants that are not excessively water-loving as the best choices.

Then the first place to go to find a list of potential plants is our Native Plant Database. Use the Combination Search feature instead of Recommended Species. This will provide a bigger selection with much more choice to narrow down. The volunteers and staff at the Wildflower Center who maintain the database have partners in different regions to help with these recommended species lists based on what is easy to access in local nurseries.
Under Combination Search, select the following categories: State – North Carolina, Habit – herb, Duration – perennial, Leaf Retention – deciduous, semi-evergreen and evergreen, Light Requirement – part shade, Soil Moisture – moist, Size – 0-1 ft. You can narrow down this search further by indicating blooming time and bloom color too if you like.

These search criteria will give you 13 plants to consider (eliminating the non-spreading types). Follow each plant link to our webpage for that plant to learn its growing conditions, bloom time, etc. At the bottom of each plant webpage, under Additional Resources, there is a link to the USDA webpage for that plant. Take a look there for more specific details about suitability before you put them on your final planting list.

Possible choices:
Asarum canadense (Canadian wild ginger)
Galax urceolata (beetleweed)
Glandularia canadensis (rose vervain)
Hexastylis arifolia (littlebrownjug)
Lycopodium digitatum (fan clubmoss)
Mitchella repens (partridgeberry)
Pachysandra procumbens (Allegheny spurge)
Phlox divaricata (wild blue phlox)
Phyla nodiflora (Texas frogfruit)
Sedum ternatum (woodland stonecrop)
Tiarella cordifolia var. collina (heartleaf foamflower)
Uvularia sessilifolia (spreading bellwort)
Viola walteri (Walter’s violet)

 

 

From the Image Gallery


Canadian wild ginger
Asarum canadense

Beetleweed
Galax urceolata

Rose vervain
Glandularia canadensis

Little brown jug
Hexastylis arifolia

Fan clubmoss
Lycopodium digitatum

Partridgeberry
Mitchella repens

Allegheny spurge
Pachysandra procumbens

Wild blue phlox
Phlox divaricata

Texas frogfruit
Phyla nodiflora

Woodland stonecrop
Sedum ternatum

Heartleaf foamflower
Tiarella cordifolia var. collina

Spreading bellwort
Uvularia sessilifolia

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