Summertime in Texas is the perfect time to get outside and get started on the garden of your dreams. “Going Native” is also a big new trend in the gardening scene around these parts. With so many adverse effects that planting non-native species has on the environment, it’s no wonder that going native has taken off so fast. However, the term native is relative. What you want to look for are Texas Native plants, because planting your garden is not just for you; you should also be conscious of the environment in which you live. Bees and butterflies, among other insects, will come to you flowers for food and to pollinate. This in turn will bring little lizards and birds who will feed on those insects in the garden, and squirrels who eat the fruit and seeds of the pollinated plants. Also, some of the most beautiful flowering plants you could plant happen to be native to this very region. Here is a list of 10 Houston-area native plants that will fit nicely into your garden.
Eastern Purple Coneflower
Drought-tolerant and a butterfly magnet, this flower blooms profusely in the spring through the summer. It prefers full sun to partial shade in well-draining soils, and is truly an outstanding performer in the garden.
A perennial coneflower with golden yellow petals and a black center, these offer continual blooms. Black-eyed Susans are drought-tolerant with blooms up to 5 inches across, and make great cut flowers for a vase to liven up your kitchen table or window sill.
Inland Sea Oats
Grasses are the unsung heroes of your garden. They add places for your eyes to relax and cause more attention to be focused on your flowering plants. This grass in particular is a shade-loving perennial grass with oak-like flower spikelets, and tends to grow in clumps. It is low maintenance and known for its large seedpods and blue-green, bamboo-like leaves. Good for controlling soil erosion.
Southern Wax Myrtle
This multi-trunked, evergreen shrub grows to about 20 ft. in height, has light, olive-green foliage with a spicy fragrance, and females which produce berries in winter. In order for the female plant to produce berries, you should think about having a separate male shrub nearby. These make excellent screening plants to help shield your yard form nosey neighbors. Prefers moist soil and full sun to partial shade.
Pride of Houston Yaupon Holly
This holly is an upright single, or multi-trunk, small tree. These trees have small, dark green leaves with pale grey bark and the female plants produce red berries in winter that wildlife can feed on, but you’ll need a male tree nearby to see berry production. However, it is drought tolerant and produces fruit best while in full sun.
Another Texas native, the Lantana has yellow to orange flowers that will bring butterflies into the garden. Very drought-tolerant as well as salt-tolerant, and deer resistant. Prefers well-draining soil and full to partial sun, spreads 3-6 ft., and blooms throughout summer.
Red Turk’s Cap
Native shrub to both Texas and Mexico, it is also known as Drummond wax-mallow. This shrub will spread unless contained, and grows 2-3 ft. tall. Prefers shade to partial shade. The bright red flowers resemble hibiscus in that the overlapping petals never fully open, allowing the stamen to protrude. The flower resembles a Turkish turban, hence the name, and does very well in those shady spots in the garden.
A fast growing, native tree with ever-blooming, large, white flowers. Drought-tolerant once established, and produces purple fruit that is edible for wildlife. Grows about 15 ft. tall with the same size canopy spread.
This tough, drought-tolerant perennial blooms constantly from late spring until hard frost. It prefers full to part sun and grows about 3 ft. tall and 3 ft. wide. The red flowers with pale green leaves are a great food source for hummingbirds.
Gulf Coast Muhly
A tough, native, perennial grass with a large, airy seed head that grows half the size of the whole plant. The spikelets are purple and in the fall, and the plant takes on a feathery, deep pink hue. It is the perfect addition to a mixed perennial bed and when planted en masse, it adds a graceful soft movement in the garden. It tends to clump, prefers full to partial sun, and reaches 2-3 ft. tall.
For more tips and ideas on how to create a native garden and for information on regional native plants, the Native Plant Society of Texas can help you.