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By Reid Lewis

More Enjoyment, Less Work. . . with Native Plants

Here in central Texas we have many different types of growing situations, everything from full sun with thin, rocky soils to deep shade with thick, clay soils that are wet and soggy, then dry and hard. So what's a gardener to do? Well, one thing is to try using native plants. There are many advantages to using natives, one of which is that they are adapted to growing here. But no matter how good a plant is, a plant that needs shade will not work in full sun nor will a full sun plant grow in the shade.

So the first step would be to choose the right plant for where you intend to plant it. Sound simple? Well it is. Start off with just a few good plants and pretty soon you will be looking for more and more to add to your collection. Now not only do native plants look great, but you will find you are using less water and fertilizer, and if that's not enough, you will have more butterflies and birds in your yard to help you enjoy them!

The list of plants for full sun is long, so let's just look at a few. One of the best plants I sell is Salvia greggii or cherry sage, classed as a sub-shrub. It gets about 3 feet by 3 feet, is evergreen and blooms mid-spring through frost. Salvia greggii flower colors are red, pink, white, and orange. This is one of the best hummingbird plants going. It has no insect or disease problems, and the deer do not like it! How about a small evergreen perennial that will bloom almost every month of the year? Try a few Hymenoxys scaposa or four-nerve daisy. This plant gets about 6 inches in height by 8-10 inches wide with single yellow daisy flowers rising 6 inches above the foliage. I have seen this plant in bloom in the wild every month of the year. A west Texas standout plant that does well for us here is Stachys coccinea or Texas betony with a height of up to 18 inches and a spread of 30 inches. This plant starts to bloom in March and goes till frost with coral red flowers. This is another great, early blooming plant for the hummingbirds. Another wonderful little plant with a long bloom season is Melampodium leucanthum or black-foot daisy, a 12 inch by 12 inch semi-evergreen perennial. It just covers up with 1 inch white daisy flowers with contrasting yellow centers, and all this plant asks for is lots of sun and good drainage. And what about the lantanas? We have two native species here in central Texas, the Texas lantana, Lantana horrida, and the pink lantana, Lantana camara. Both of these are big shrubby plants that bloom all summer long and draw butterflies as good as any plant you can use.

Okay, so you don't have a lot of sun; that's just fine. A plant that will grow in full sun to shade is Turk's cap, Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii. This is a wonderful plant because it will grow in so many situations. It's a 3 foot by 3 foot plant that is long-lived and hardy with red blooms from June through frost. It's loved by both hummingbirds and butterflies, plus it makes an edible little fruit (but most of the time the birds will beat you to them). A small evergreen Salvia that likes semi-shade is cedar sage, Salvia roemeriana. This is a plant native to the hill country that grows.... you guessed it, under cedars. Another very good tall ground cover is pigeonberry, Rivina humilis, growing from 18-24 inches tall. It has fluffy white to pink bloom spikes and brilliant red fruit at the same time, from May to October. And birds just love them. And if you have a spot that gets part shade, part sun, you just can't go wrong with one of the two native columbines. Here in central Texas we have the red columbine, Aquilegia canadensis, an evergreen perennial to about 18 inches by 18 inches. It has red flowers with spurs 2 inches long. From west Texas we have a beautiful yellow columbine. The yellow columbine you are likely to find in the nursery trade is a cultivar called 'Texas Gold' columbine. It's a hybrid, which can be any of the five species from the mountains of west Texas. It's a taller plant, 2 feet by 2 feet with yellow flowers. Both the red and yellow columbines bloom from late February to May.

Now there are hundreds of great plants out there just waiting for you to discover. Do your homework or talk to a nursery person who is knowledgeable. So no matter what your situation is, there are lots of good native plants to make your yards and gardens a more enjoyable place for both you and the birds and butterflies. More enjoyment, less work. . . sounds simple. Well, it is!


Want to learn more about native plants?
Click Here to Visit the Native Plant Society of Texas Website


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