The Lily and the Crag

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines crag as a steep, rugged rock or cliff.  As for lily, well, I think this is visually self-explanatory:

Pretty, isn’t it?   And hardy too, just like the first part of its name–enduring like a rock, that is.

Texas CraglilyEcheandia texensis,  blooms beautifully in my gardens from September into November, sometimes well into December.

Tough-n-lovely, this excellent Texas member of the Liliaceae family is sorely underutilized by gardeners from Central Texas southward to the Valley.  Here in Austin, I’ve only seen it sold at one nursery, Barton Springs Nursery (BSN).  BSN labels this plant as “Copper Spiders” but as I researched this plant, I’ve never seen that term used anywhere else.  A long-time BSN employee recently shared with me the story that BSN originally purchased “Copper Spiders” from Yucca Do Nursery and that’s the name the online nursery dubbed it. A quick look at the Yucca Do’s website led me to the the Echeandia texensis page and it’s confirmed that “Copper Spiders” is definitively identified as E. texensis.

No matter what the folks in the nursery trade call it, this gardener calls it fabulous!

There are two other Echeandia species in Texas, E. chandleri and E. flavescensbut I’ve been fairly sure for several years now that what I’ve purchased at BSN and have been happily enjoying in my gardens is  E. texensis.  All three Echeandia are commonly called “Texas Craglily”  or “Craglily”;  the E. flavescens is also called Torrey’s Craglily, and E. chandleri is known by the poetic Lila de los llanos.

When I first saw the Texas Craglily at BSN  (four? five?) years ago on a hot July afternoon (yeah, I garden in the summer), I remember thinking that I’d seen a photo of it in the seminal Texas gardening book, Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region,  by Sally and Andy Wasowski, which was my gardening guide and muse for many years. In fact, the Wasowski’s wrote about the E. chandleri, (page 177!).  but the bloom and foliage are very similar to the E. texensis.

I’m no botanist, but it wouldn’t surprise me if there’s been some hybridization in nature and cultivation through the nursery trade.  But whatever this plant is, I’m glad to make room for it in my gardens–and you should too if you live in Central and South Texas.

Dying back at the first hard freeze, it disappears until late spring–sometimes not returning in full until May or June.

During summer the foliage returns quickly and is attractive and well-behaved.

It’s always a bonus in the garden to host plants with elegant grassy structure, especially when it’s lush and easy-care.  In my heavy soil, the foliage only grows to about a foot in height and width. Sometime in late August or early September, the stalks begin shooting upwards and bloom development begins, mostly toward the top of the panicles.

A glorious autumnal yellow-orange, the sweet little blooms are pollinator magnets.

Most of my Texas Craglily plants grow in part-sun, but it’s a perennial that likes lots of bright sunshine. Some of mine leeeaaan over to catch the rays.

Others are tall and stand at full floral attention.  The more “balloon” look to the petals indicates early morning before they’ve stretched and opened.  Or maybe they just need their morning coffee.

I have a number of Texas Craglily specimens planted alongside Henry Duelberg SageSalvia farinacea ‘Henry Duelberg’ and Gregg’s Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii:  it’s a winning combination.

Peeking between some garden art, the graceful foliage holds its own.

I see bees and butterflies feeding at the blooms throughout Texas Craglily’s bloom period, though funnily enough, I don’t have a single photo to prove that.  Additionally, none of my Craglily plants have ever produced seedlings–that could happen, but it hasn’t thus far.

So I’m off to BSN to purchase just one more because I’ve figured out another spot where one is absolutely REQUIRED and will be perfectly situated.  And just in case there’s a run on these beauties, I asked a kind employee to hold two for me!  Ha!

I have no information about its attractiveness to deer, but if you live in or near Austin, try this lily in your garden–in full or part sun and either thin or heavy soil. Texas Craglily is hardy enough to handle the cracks, crags, rocks and clay, yet dainty enough to decorate the Texas autumn garden.

Happy planting!!

Texas Craglily is a native plant and Gail at clay and limestone promotes natives  and wildflowers for the home garden through her Wildflower Wednesday gardening meme. Thanks to Gail for hosting and teaching others about the importance and beauty of wildflowers.


Gregg’s Mistflower (Conoclinium greggii): A Seasonal Look

It’s that time of year again:  Monarch butterflies, Danaus plexippus, are migrating through Texas on their way to winter in Mexico.  And what nectar delights do they partake of in their nutritional pit-stops?  Many blooming things, but they prefer sipping from native flowers and high on a list of favorites is the Gregg’s Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii.

As part of the 2015 celebratory edition of Texas Native Plant Week, let’s take A Seasonal Look at this gorgeous native ground cover–friend to gardener and pollinator alike.

It’s October and even in my part-shade garden, the Gregg’s Mistflower blooms up in fuzzy, lavender-blue gorgeousness.

Mid-September through Mid-November hosts the peak flowering for this tough and lovely native Texas-to-Arizona plant.  In its native range,  Gregg’s Mistflower is perennial and acts as a ground cover in the garden, reaching a height of only about 12 inches during its blooming period and spreading to cover as much or little space as the gardener will tolerate or encourage.

A member of the Asteraceae family,  the flowers are gorgeous, showy,

…and unusual. Additionally, they are constantly visited by many a pollinating critter.


Along with Monarchs,

…the Queen butterfly, Danaus gilippus, prefers Gregg’s Mistflower over other nectar choices.

I planted my G. Mistflower group from passed along sprigs with healthy roots attached, and have, in turned, gifted to other enthralled gardeners seeking beauty in botanic and pollinator form.  The flowers are what most gardeners prize the Gregg’s for, but it is generally a no-fuss plant–it carries no disease problems and is a water-wise addition to any Texas-tough garden.


Once its flowering has peaked, the fuzzy blooms fade to a tawny beige.

I find the spent blooms quite attractive and I have witnessed finches sneaking snacks from the seed heads.

After the first hard freeze and subsequent foliage drop, the color of the spent blooms lighten just a bit.


Through December and January, the seed heads become more fragile and begin dispersal.  I’ve never experienced Gregg’s Mistflower re-seeding into other parts of my garden, or elsewhere for that matter.  In my garden it spreads primarily by the roots in the immediate vicinity of the mother plant.  Due to lazy-gardener syndrome,  I usually leave the thin and fragile remains of Gregg’s Mistflower, seed heads and stems, mingling with the fallen foliage from deciduous trees through the course of winter.

I become serious about clean-up only upon arrival of the first spring growth.

Since Gregg’s Mistflower is dormant during winter, you might want to plant companions of non-native, but evergreen Iris, or native and evergreen Cedar Sage, Salvia roemeriana, Lyre-leaf Sage, Salvia lyrata, or Gulf Coast PenstemonPenstemon tenuis–all which are spring bloomers–allowing for seasonal interest when Mistflower is dormant.  Additionally, by planting evergreens along the edges where you want to limit the spread of Gregg’s Mistflower, you can give a sense of structure to the garden.

Once the warmer temperatures return and spring growth is well-underway, Gregg’s Mistflower grows quickly–adding plenty of filler foliage to augment spring’s beauty. It is a plant that requires some tidying around the edges so that it doesn’t insinuate itself too much out of its desired range, but is easily controlled by simply weeding out the wayward growth and passing along to other native plants gardeners!

The foliage is a stunning bright green and is lobed, or palmate, in shape.

Its other common names (aside from Gregg’s Mistflower) pay homage to the palmate foliage. Names like Palm-leaf Mistflower, Palm-leaf Thoroughwort, Purple Palmleaf Mistflower, Purple Palm Leaf Eupatorium are certainly descriptive, though I’m personally fond of the “Gregg’s”.  Named after Josiah Gregg , who was one of the 19th century naturalists who traveled throughout Texas and catalogued  plants (and other things as well), Gregg’s Mistflower is one of many plants named in his honor.

Gregg’s returns from dormancy rapidly and usually there are smatterings of blooms during spring and summer, but the real flower-power show begins in August, picking up blooming steam during September and October, with a slacking off as November strolls through the garden.

So pretty.

Gregg’s Mistflower is not only an excellent pollinator plant, but also the host plant for the Rawson’s Metalmark Butterfly, Calephelis rawsoni.

Gregg’s Mistflower grow and bloom best in full to part sun, but will take shade.  In a garden that I once managed at Zilker Botanical Garden, one group of Gregg’s Mistflower grew in light shade–it received no direct sun throughout the day.  The foliage was lanky, but still attractive, and the blooms appeared, less abundantly, but on schedule during the autumn months, just like its brethren growing in more sun. In decent soil, this hardy plant only takes about two years to cover a 4×4 foot area. With rockier soil or a shadier spot, the Gregg’s Mistflower covers a similar patch more slowly.

If you enjoy (snort!) deer visiting your garden, be aware that they’re likely to nibble your Mistflower, so if you can grow it in a spot where the ungulate beasties can’t get to the plant, you’ll be a satisfied gardener, even if you’re frustrating your deer visitors

Gregg’s Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, is a plant that works in any Texas garden, sun or shade, rocky or clayey, formal or casual, and is coveted by pollinators and gardeners.

In Spring,







Bloom Day, October 2015

For the past few months, I’ve been remiss in participating in Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day, hosted by Carol at May Dreams Gardens.  October seems a good time to break newly formed bad habits and join in again with this celebration of all things blooming.

I’m enjoying plenty  of Autumn blooms in my garden and so are various pollinators as they ramp up for winter dormancy.  Frostweed, Verbesina virginica, is loaded with bloom clusters,

…and hosts a remarkable variety of grateful and busy pollinating buddies, like this honeybee and Grey Hairstreak butterfly, Strymon melinus.

The Gregg’s Mistflower, Conoclinium coelestinum,  is also a favorite amongst the winged and antennaed crowd.

But it doesn’t mind going it alone, either.

Pairing beautifully with Gregg’s Mistflower is the Texas CraglilyEcheandia texensis.  This lovely and uncommon Texas fall bloomer is open for business as well, though the native bees have been too quick for me to capture any photographs of their hard work.

Goldeneye,  Viguiera dentata, is flush with bright, sunshine blooms

…and alive with constantly attending honeybees.

What’s blooming where you live?   Show off your blooms, then hop over to May Dreams Garden for October’s blooming bonanza.