Soft, Like Puppy-dog Ears

Sometimes, it’s called Puppy-dog Ears.  Not these kinds of puppy-dog ears,

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…this kind.

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Senna lindheimeriana is also known as Lindheimer’s Senna (which is what I call it), Velvet leaf Senna, and Velvet-leaf wild sensitive-plant (which is a most awkward name). Another charming common name, Puppy-dog Ears, refers to the softness of the leaves. Whatever you choose to call this wonderful wildflower, it’s a plant that should be in every Texan’s garden.  A graceful perennial, it sports beautiful, velvety-soft, gray-green foliage from spring, through summer and into fall and winter.

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If this was Senna’s only redeeming quality, it would be enough.  But wait, there’s more! In September and October, it produces clusters of happy yellow flowers, which become attractive seed pods, later providing seeds for birds during the winter months.

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An excellent choice for the water-wise landscape, Lindheimer’s Senna is native to Texas, New Mexico, and Arizona.  It’s best in a dry soil, though mine is planted in heavier clay soil and has performed well. However, I wouldn’t recommend weekly irrigation of this plant.  I only water twice per month during summer and the rest of the year, it gets only what comes from the sky, so my Senna doesn’t receive much moisture.  Senna is deciduous, meaning that it loses its leaves with freezing temperatures, but it returns in spring, increasing in height (and sometimes getting a little too lanky) through the growing season. Some of my Senna have reached five feet tall, but most seem to hover in the three to four feet in height range. I’ve found that the more sun it receives, the less lanky its growth, but Senna almost always leans a little by the fall bloom-n-seed period. On a few occasions, I have staked my plants toward the end of the blooming period, as the seed pods begin developing. Because of its leaning tendency, Lindheimer’s Senna works well in the back of a cultivated, more formal garden or in an informal wildflower garden.

I currently grow only one Senna.  Earlier this year, I transplanted another and it didn’t survive.  I have noticed that Senna can be tricky to transplant, so it’s best to move in late winter/early spring, when the weather is cool and wet.  Afterwards, carefully watch the plant until it’s established.

I like it paired with the bright green leaves of the tropical Esperanza, Tecoma stans,

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…and also with this containerized Century Plant, Agave americana.

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Lindheimer’s Senna is a plant that you’ll see along highways in Texas in early fall because it is drought resistant and hardy; it doesn’t require “cultivation” by gardeners–it just grows, blooms, and sets seed for the future and for wildlife.

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Shirley of Rock-Oak-Deer discussed Lindheimer’s Senna in a recent post celebrating Wildflower Wednesday. She explained how the Senna was one of the plants which piqued her interest with growing natives in her garden.  That’s just how lovely Lindheimer’s Senna is: it’s a plant you notice and think to yourself, Wow!  What a beauty. I wonder if it something I could grow in my garden?

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Well it is something you can and should grow!  Drought tolerant, deer resistant, with beautiful foliage and striking blooms,

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…this is a perennial worth having in the wildlife-friendly, water-wise garden.