Promoting Texas Native Plants Week, I’d like to put in a good word for Texas plants known for lovely or interesting foliage.  Foliage is often overlooked when planning a garden and it shouldn’t be; foliage is the bedrock of most winter gardens and sets the tone and backdrop for all blooms.  In my gardens, it seems like plants fall into three foliage categories:  scratchy, spiky, or soft.   I won’t give scratchy plants attention for now (looking at YOU, Lantana and Barbados cherry!), but I will profile a few foliage beauties from the other two categories.

The soil in my gardens is clayey, so I haven’t had much luck with the soft-as-a-baby’s-bottom leaves of the Wooly stemodiaStemodia lanata.  This plant  requires excellent drainage and a good amount of sun.  I am successful with a couple of individuals planted in containers and they’re  thriving.


This Wooly stemodia gracefully cascades over the cherry-red pot, while its partner, an American century plantAgave americana sits firmly in the pot and the spiky category.  Both plants share a beautiful gray-green coloring, which is a characteristic of foliage of many Texas native plants.

In this photo, spiky dominates the scene with a second and larger American century plant, this time complemented by a deep blue pot that is its home.


A spiky garden buddy, Pale-leaf yuccaYucca pallida, echos the gray of the agave, though I think the color suggests more blue than the gray-green agave.  The yucca also doesn’t have “teeth” like  the agave, though the ends pointedly exhibit their own danger, especially when the gardener is careless and/or forgets about the needling yucca while pruning or weeding. Ouch!  Truthfully, I’m not a member of the spiky-plant club that so many Austin gardeners belong to.  However, native yuccas and agaves provide low-maintenance beauty and structure and every Texas garden should showcase at least one.

The softer plants in the photo–Turk’s cap, Malvaviscus arboreus, Plateau goldeneye, Viguiera dentata, and Frostweed, Verbesina virginica, all exhibit larger, “tropical” leaves, and are typically considered shade-dwellers, although all three thrive in full-to-part sun.  The Zexmenia, Wedelia texana,  has small, hairy leaves, which are an adaptation with allows the leaves to absorb atmospheric moisture.  The Zexmenia is an extremely drought-tolerant perennial.

Another spiky native is this Twistleaf yuccaYucca rupicola, here haloed by blooming Zexmenia.


A true green,  the Twistleaf yucca, like its cousin,  the Pale-leaf yucca, bloom in the spring and sometimes, later in autumn.  Four foot blooms stalks  topped with clusters of fragrant, creamy flowers, provide for many interested pollinators. For the most of the year, handsome foliage dominates.

More gray-green in the landscape comes from Big muhly, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri. 



A yearling Big muhly fronts a crown of blooming White tropical sage (Salvia coccinea)

I’ve struggled to find a good spot for the three specimens in my garden as they love full, blasting Texas sun and my garden is hampered by shade.

Really, I’m complaining about shade?  In Texas?

Big muhly is an elegant native grass.  I’ve contented myself with appreciating those that grow in other gardens (or in open spaces).  I’m crossing-fingers that the few in my garden will prosper–I believe I finally have good spots for each.

I am successful with this far West Texas native, Mexican feathergrassNassella tenuissima.


These grasses are gorgeous in containers and planted in the ground, as well as happy in sun or shade–a win for the garden!  Stunning in the spring with  frothy, silvery-green foliage, they evolve into a toastier autumn presence as the growing season advances.

Texas beargrass, Nolina texana, is one more “grass” that is beautiful in a pot or directly in the garden.


This slow-grower is in the Liliaceae family and works well as an ornamental grass. Evergreen with a draping habit, it makes a statement, especially when planted in groups of two or three. This is another plant which flourishes when planted in containers.

Native Texas Plant Week is winding down, but the use of native plants in commercial and home gardens is on the upswing, not only in Texas but in many other places.  Now is a good time here in Texas to plant trees and perennials and to plan for next year.  Whether you live in Texas, or not–go native!  Native plants are easy and special because they belong in and to the unique place you call home.

Whatever foliage you grow, please check out Christina’s lovely Creating my own garden of the Hesperides Garden Bloggers’ Foliage Day.  See interesting foliage from many gardens and from many places, and then share your own leafy loveliness.

Texas Native Plant Week

Not that I need an excuse to extol the virtues of utilizing Texas native plants in the home garden, but this week, October 16-22, is the official week to celebrate our beautiful native plants here in Texas. So, here goes!


White tropical sage (Salvia coccinea) with Big muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri)

I’ve gardened with native plants for more than 20 years.


Gregg’s mistflower (Conoclinium greggii)


Inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium), in autumn

And why not?  They’re easy to grow, with minimal effort in maintenance and watering.


Frostweed (Verbesina virginica) and Rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala)


Red tropical sage (Salvia coccinea)

Plus, they’re lovely.


Henry Duelberg Sage (Salvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’) with Purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea)


American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)


Lindheimer’s senna (Senna lindheimeriana) and Frostweed

Throughout North America (and probably, most parts of the world) native plants and the wildlife relying on them, are declining due to habitat destruction, the proliferation of invasive plants, widespread use of chemicals in industrial agriculture and urban gardens, and the changing climate.


Barbados Cherry (Malpighia glabra) and Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)


Pigeonberry (Rivina humilis)

The individual gardener can’t solve all of those issues, nor completely reverse the damage done by decades of inappropriate land management, but we can do our part to repair the world in our own outdoor spaces.  One real way to heal the Earth and provide for its inhabitants is by growing native plants.


Frostweed with nectaring honeybees, Texan Crescent and Grey Hairstreak butterflies


Texas Crescent butterflies on Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)

Planting native trees, perennials, grasses, and annuals provides habitat required for wildlife to exist and beauty for the gardener to enjoy.


Honeybee on Rock rose (Pavonia lasiopetala)


Green anole lizard on foliage of Frostweed (Verbesina virginica)

Once native plants are in play, it’s remarkable how interesting the garden becomes.


Native bee (Megachile, Leafcutter ssp?) on Plateau goldeneye (Viguiera dentata)


Endemic wildlife–pollinators, birds, reptiles, and other critters–can’t thrive in the typical American landscape of sterile, mono-culture turf–there’s nothing for them to eat, nor refuge for raising young.  But when native plants are grown, a diversity of wildlife results because wildlife native to a specific region shares biological synchronicity with plants from that region.   Plants are certainly pretty enough, but when clouds of butterflies are in the garden, or the sweet songs of birds are a constant, you know that you’ve hit the true native plants sweet spot:  the garden is living and alive, which is what a garden should be.


Yellow bells (Tacoma stans)


Honeybee on Frostweed (Verbesina virginica)

Are native plants free of work?  No, like any worthwhile effort, self-education is a must and there will be some maintenance in a native plants garden. But eschewing the sterile lawn and needy exotic annuals and perennials in favor of regionally appropriate native plants with their full palette of color and texture, inspires life and dynamism in the  garden through seasonal change and accompanying wildlife.


Red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)


American beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

In some communities, it’s challenging to find native plants for purchase, but more nurseries than ever are stocking natives because consumers are demanding them.   Utilizing online nurseries for seed purchases, involvement in local native plant societies for information and plant/seed exchanges, and perusing gardening blogs and related websites, as well as studying books on plants and design basics, are good places to begin learning about the value, beauty, and how-tos of growing and gardening with native plants.  Check out the Garden Resources section of this blog for a by-no-means comprehensive list of websites useful for learning about native plants, wildlife and water-wise gardening, and related subjects.


Big red sage (Salvia penstemonoides)


Inland sea oats (Chasmanthium latifolium) in early summer

Autumn in Texas, at least for the southern and eastern parts of the state, is a good time to plant native trees and perennials and to sow wildflower seeds.  Winter is an excellent time to study garden design principles and plan for implementation for your new gardens, pathways, and sitting areas.  Gardening is a process–a wandering path, if you will–and transformation from a turf-centered lawn to a living, blooming, berrying garden, takes time. You will make mistakes, but that’s how you learn.  Take your time, connect with like-minded gardeners, and enjoy the native garden ride.


White tropical sage (Salvia coccinea)


Rock rose with Zexmenia (Wedelia texana)

It can seem daunting to completely change the garden modus operandi by switching from a “traditional” high-maintenance, turf-loving landscape to one based on native plants.  But even if you can’t convert your entire property to a native habitat, adding  a pollinator garden or two, planting native shade trees, and/or native shrubs for birds, is a good start in moving toward a native landscape. You will see a difference almost immediately as you add native plants to your property:  there will be color and life and it’s likely that you won’t spend as much time working in the garden as you do enjoying the garden.  Isn’t that what a garden should be?


Texas Crescent butterfly on Blue mistflower

So, go native!  Plant native!  Celebrate Texas native plants–this week, and for months and years to come!


Big muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri) with blooming Plateau goldeneye

Golden Autumn

This week marks the annual celebration of Texas Native Plant week, October 16-22.


Two Texas natives, Lindheimer’s senna peeking through an American century plant, demonstrate the soft and the prickly of plants from the Lone Star State.

Texas is well-known for its spectacular spring wildflower show and especially its star wildflower and state flower, the Bluebonnet, Lupinus texensis.  But September, October, and November display an equally stunning array of beautiful grasses, annuals and perennial bloomers, as well as colorful seed and berry-producing plants during the beautiful autumn display.  Important for pollinators, migrating birds, and other wildlife, Texas native plants are easy to grow, conserve water, and define place:  native plants make the Texas natural landscape, or your cultivated garden, special.

Yellow is an autumn thing here in Texas.  Native Yellow bellsTacoma stans shout golden goodness with masses of trumpet blooms–and the pollinators are appreciative.


The Texas craglily, Echeandia texensis,  sports sweet flowers along 2 to 3 feet bloom stalks and blooms well into November.


Zexmenia, Wedelia texensis, is a native flowering groundcover which graces any garden with loads of nectar-filled daisies from May through October.


Zexmenia paired with another native groundcover in a container, Wooly stemodia (Stemodia lanata).


Zexmenia planted with Twistleaf yucca (Yucca rupicola).

Sometimes called Puppy-dog ears because of its soft foliage, the Lindheimer’s senna, Senna lindheimeriana, rock cheery flowers which are native bee magnets.


Plateau goldeneyeViguiera dentata, brighten Texas gardens and wild spaces with a blast of fall sunshine.


Beloved by pollinators,



…once the blooms are spent, native finches and warblers gobble the seeds throughout winter.

Lauding just a few of the native bloomers from my garden, I’m also enjoying Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day with Carol at May Dreams Garden.  Join in, share your garden pretties (native or not!), then click over to her lovely blog to see and learn about blooms from many places.