Click on the plants from the list to see its facts and
(Although no plants made this list unless they are good ones for Central Texas, the plants with an * are the very best
you can get for a successful Texas Garden.) After several requests from my readers, I have added a
to those plants that are considered
invasive. You will have to decide whether or not to plant these. They are good for your yard, but certainly not for our wildlife and natural
Althea: This is a small tree with hibiscus-like flowers in the summertime. Deciduous, 10'--15' feet. A beautiful little tree.
Apple: Plant apple trees in full sun and enjoy their spring blooms and a harvest of crisp, fresh apples. Varieties for Texas: Granny Smith, Gala, Fugi, Braeburn, Dorsett Golden, to name a few. Your county extension service can give you a better idea of what kind you should plant, and advise on problems you may have in your area. Always consult this valuable resource.
Catalpa: Large, deciduous tree with showy flowers in the spring and big, pretty leaves. Has bean-like pods. A very interesting tree. It is quite lovely, interesting, and easy to grow. You may also know this tree as the Indian Bean.
Carolina Buckthorn: A nice deciduous tree for sun to shade, with a height of 15 to 30 feet. It has shiny leaves and red berries in the late summer. Easy to grow and attractive.
Chinese Photinia: One of my favorite trees. This is often used as a shrub, but it can get to a medium tree height here in Central Texas. It has beautiful white flower clusters in the spring and colorful red berries in the fall that attract the endangered Cedar Wax Wing bird. It has large attractive leaves and nice trunk color. I highly recommend this excellent, trouble free tree. No special care or requirements; just trim the branches off the trunk for a tree, or let it bush out to use as a large shrub.
Crape Myrtle: These come in two sizes, this one is a tree, the other a shrub. Crape Myrtles are beautiful and do not require much maintainence. Do not cut the top off this tree in the winter; you are just destroying its form and wasting your time. You may lightly trim the branches in winter, but be gentle. If you plant this tree in full sun and in an area with good drainage and good air circulation, you will have a healthy, happy tree. If you don't, your tree will have powdery mildew and will be sickly, with few blooms.
Desert Willow: A 15'-30' deciduous tree with tubular pink to purple flowers and willow-like leaves. It is very drought resistant and tough. Prunning will encourage more blooms.
Elm: Elms are rather risky, as many kinds are subject to diseases, but since so many people like them, we thought we should include them on our list. If you must have one, try to get a Lacebark elm. Whatever you do, stay away from the diseased and ugly Siberian Elm.
Eve's Necklace: You should know about this tree! We love it. It is healthy, large enough to provide shade, but not so large as to fall on your house and destroy it someday. It has lovely pink flowers in the spring, and interesting black seed pods that look somewhat like a string of black beads, hence the name. The leaves are beautiful too.
Holly: If Noah built an ark and had to take trees aboard, this would certainly deserve a place of honor. We absolutely adore this plant. The holly (scientific name, Ilex) comes in a variety for every taste and need, from small shrubs to medium trees. Some are deciduous, some evergreen. You will need to know what kind you are getting. In addition to knowing the variety, if you want berries, buy a plant that has berries on it, or you may get the fruitless male. Every variety is wonderful, but here are some ones you may want to know about: Possumhaw holly-looses its leaves in winter, has beautiful red berries in the winter on female plants; Savannah--an evergreen with berries and lovely leaves; Yaupon--the scientific name of this plant is Ilex vomitoria, which should give you an idea what will happen if you eat the berries; keep kids away from holly berries, they are poisonous. This variety is a small tree, evergreen with small leaves and red berries, with interesting branches and trunks. Other hollies are shrubs, and will be covered in that area of the website. You cannot go wrong with this plant unless you have a child that can't stay away from the berries.
Magnolia: Large, evergreen tree, famous in the South for its large white flowers and big leaves. This tree prefers sandy, acid soils better than our soils here, but we have seen them successfully grown around Central Texas. This southern lady will do her best to grow in different conditions, but like many ladies, she's high maintainence. Requires lots of room, little will grow underneath in the dense shade, and continuously drops large, leathery leaves all over your lawn. You might like to try the drawf variety, Magnolia grandiflora, 'Little Gem.'
Mexican Buckeye: Deciduous small tree with pink spring flowers and decorative (poisonous) seed pods following. This little tree requires no special care and has lovely fall color. It will grow under many conditions and is drought tolerant.
Oak, Lacey: This is a native Texas oak (Quercus glaucoides). It is a small to medium tree which is drought tolerant, pest resistant, and long lived. It does well in our alkaline soil areas.
Peach: Deciduous fruit trees, peaches have spring flowers followed by the fruit. If you have ever had fresh peaches, you will know why people bother to grow their own. How you care for them depends on your philosophy about organic gardening versus the chemical method. Since we will be eating these, we certainly think that you should use organic methods whenever possible. There are many insects that will try to rob you of your peaches. Look for organic insecticides in the garden centers. Plant peaches the same as you would for any tree; dig a big hole being careful not to cause your shovel to slick the side of the hole. Test hole for drainage by filling with water. Come back in two hours to see if the water is gone. Good drainage is important to most shrubs, flowers, and trees. You may also want to try a fruit net to protect fruits from birds. It is not easy to grow peaches in Texas; the winters are not cold enough, the summers are too hot, and the bugs are, well you know. . . Prune your peaches by 50% in the winter. Varieties for Central Texas: Sentinel, Spring Gold, Loring, Majestic, and Bicentennial. Consult your county extension service for more suggestions for your area.
Pear: Pears do better here than peaches; you can expect to get a decent crop. Try to find the varieties Orient, Ayers, or Moonglow. Spray organically for leaf spot. The ornamental pear, Pyrus calleryana, or Callery Pear is a beautiful pear for good spring blooms and fall color. Perhaps more commonly seen is the Bradford Pear, with its symmetrical appearance. It has a shorter lifespan and more problems than the Callery.
Plum: Plums also grow fairly well here. You may want to start with plums if you have never grown fruit trees before, since they are easier. Try the varieties Morris, Bruce, and Methley. Plums are pretty enough to be included as part of your landscape plantings, so why have trees that don't produce fruit, when you could have plums, with pretty blossums and tasty fruit?
Pomegranate: This a favorite of ours. We have a small ornamental pomegranate in our front yard. Every year it produces many orange blossums followed by small to medium fruits. The fruits are very decorative themselves. We use the small ones in potpourri mixes, together with rose petals, rose hips, and other dried flowers and pods. They are so attractive and can be used in many craft projects. You can eat ornamental pomegranates, but there is too little there to fool with. For fruit, choose a regular pomegranate, but be aware that these kind are much larger. They make good shade trees. Both should be planted in full sun. They are carefree and drought resistant, and don't mind Texas heat.
Redbud: Redbuds are deciduous trees with interesting trunk color, beautiful heart-shaped leaves, and lovely spring flowers. The 'Oklahoma' variety is probably the most common. It can be found growing quite well in the woods, where it gets no special care, so you know it will do well in your landscape. There is also a purple leafed variety, 'Forest Pansy', which has smaller, reddish leaves. These are great trees that everyone should have.
Sumac: This small tree can be seen growing wild all over Central Texas. It is most observed when the fall foilage appears. Then the lance-shaped leaves turn a beautiful orange. For that alone, it is worth including in your landscape. If you have a very formal looking yard, you may not like this tree as well as some choices, because it has rather irregular branching habits, but it looks great in most settings. Give the little fellow a try.
Vitex: Vitex, for some people is a shrub, but we think it deserves to be a tree. After all, it is taller than a person. Vitex is also known as the Lilac Chaste tree. It has purple or white flowers in the summer. It is a good tree to use as a deciduous hedge. It provides flowering color during the time that most flowering trees have gone on to other things. It should be planted in full sun, and it is drought tolerant.
Abelia: This is a great shrub with small white blossums much of the year. It can get quite large, so give it plenty of room. It is evergreen, about 5 feet tall by 4 feet wide at maturity.
American Beautyberry: This is a deciduous shrub that not too many people know about. It can be found growing in the wild in Central Texas. In late summer it has a very unusual color of violet berries that are decorative and fragrant. It is carefree and only wants to please.
Aralia: This is a tropical looking shrub with big, palmate leaves. Although it looks like it belongs in Hawaii, it can take a few freezes in the winter. You must plant it in the shade; it hates our Texas sun. It is evergreen with a spread of 4-5 feet, about 4-5 feet tall.
Artemisia: There are several varieties of this herb. The difference is in the leaf shape. Artemisia is a gray evergreen that gets about 3-4 feet tall and as wide as you let it. If you are looking for a way to have shrubs, but don't have much money, this plant is for you. In winter, spring, and fall, whenever there are moderate temperatures and a little rain, you can break off stems of this plant and stick them in the ground where you want another shrub. Most of the time, it will root, and a year later you will have a four-foot wide shrub there. To make sure it lives, get a little of the roots that try to form on the stems when you take your cuttings. I bought one small plant a few years ago; now I have four large shrubs and several small ones from cuttings. It has no disease or pest problems either, and it looks great.
Aspidistra: I know, this isn't a shrub, but you've got to start thinking outside the box. This tropical looking plant with its spear-shaped 2 foot leaves makes a great shrub for the shade. It is tough, but please keep the sun away from it.
Aucuba: This evergreen shrub has yellow spots on the leaves, hence the name of the variety 'Golddust'. It needs to be in full shade. Aucubas get 5-6 feet tall and about that wide. Dwarf forms are available. They are good for brightening a shady spot where color is needed.
Bluebeard Spirea: This shrub is not as well known as some spirea, but it is worth a try. It has rare blue blossums and small leaves. It needs full sun, adequate water, and a little patience while it is getting established. It is deciduous.
Candletree: This is a huge annual used as a decorative shrub. It can get 6 feet tall and 4 feet wide. The leaves are arranged in pretty rows, and it has large yellow flowers somewhat resembling candles. Full sun, moderate water.
Cleyera: This evergreen shrub has pretty leaves and small white flowers in the spring, followed by orange berries. The foilage is pretty enough to make this shrub worthy of your garden. The new leaves have a reddish color before turning glossy green. Needs good drainage and sun to part shade.
Cyperus: This is sometimes called the Umberella Plant. It looks a little like the papyrus that grows along the Nile River. This is not really a shrub, of course, but it is listed here because it can be used effectively as one. These tough plants will add a tropical or even Eygptian look to your yard. They can be divided every few years to give you more and more of them, and they also will reseed. This is a beautiful and useful plant that is carefree. It can be planted in shade or part sun. It looks especially good near a water feature, and it will appreciate the extra water.
Crape Myrtle: Crape Myrtles can be trees or shrubs, depending on the size to which you let them grow, or the variety you choose. Don't let these plants go a long time without trimming so that the trunks get too large. It is a crime to top these shrubs! It ruins their form and does nothing but cause you extra work. Just trim lightly every early winter to maintain a nice form, especially if you are not letting them become trees. Please plant them in full sun with good drainage and good air flow, and they will reward you amply.
Germander: Germander is an herb. It is a little hard to find, but look for it, because it is a valuable addition to any landscape. Germander can be trimmed into a small hedge. It will spread easily, so it can be a very economical choice for shurbs. It gets about a foot tall, and is evergreen.
Holly: Hollies are among our very favorite plants. Their usefulness in the Texas landscape cannot be over-stated. There are several hollies that can be used as shrubs, from the wonderful 1-2 foot tall Dwarf Yaupon to every size up to a tree. They are beautiful, carefree, and disease and drought resistant. You can't go wrong, so just look through the ones available at the nurseries and choose the ones that appeal to you the best. As with all shrubs, be sure and check to see the mature size, so that you do not place them too close together or too far apart. One caution--during an extremely dry winter or summer, be sure and water occasionally. A thirsty holly looks the same as a healthy one, that is, until one day it turns brown. Then it will be too late.
Lavendar: Lavendar is another herb that makes a good shrub. It will need full sun and good drainage to be healthy. Lavendar is evergreen, with a mature size of about 2 feet tall by 4-5 feet wide. It will be taller when the flowers form on long stalks. Lavendar can be cut and dried to use in craft projects; it is famous for its scent. It is an attractive plant with some drought tolerance and it is generally not bothered by insects and diseases.
Ligustrum, variegated: The variegated variety of ligustrum is perhaps the best of all ligustrums. It has a graceful arching habit, gets 5 feet tall and wide, and will perform well in part shade. Fairly drought tolerant, but it will really do well if it has adequate water. This is a great shrub.
Ligustrum, wax: Wax ligustrums often grow wild. They are tough and carefree, getting well over six feet tall if not trimmed back. We have used these shrubs for years to create borders and natural fences. After you have just one or two, you won't need to buy more because they will reseed each year. They can be easily transplanted, so you can use them wherever you need a shrub. They can grow in fairly dense shade, or even full sun. If you trim them often, they will be more bushy, forming several new branches wherever you cut them.
Mahonia: There are two of these sold in the nurseries. The one for our area is the Leatherleaf Mahonia. You can plant this shrub in the shade somewhere and forget about it once it is established. Ours is in the far corner of the yard growing basically out of rocks. It will hang in there, even if neglected. It has blue ornamental berries and yellow flowers.
Warning! Nandinas are invasive. Nandinas come in small, medium, and large sizes. We don't like the 'Nana' variety, but all the others are great. These tough, disease and pest free shrubs will grow anywhere under just about any conditions. They have little white flowers in the spring, and very red ornamental berries in the winter. The foilage is evergreen, but turns slightly purple in the cold months. Nandinas have an oriental look, with their small, lovely leaves. There is a story that says that you should give a nandina to a just married couple to be planted near the door. When the husband has a complaint about his wife, he can go outside and talk to the nandina. We don't know if this is true or not, but it sounds like a good idea.
Oregano: Oregano is another herb that should be used more as a landscape plant. It has a neat mounding habit and will grow to be about a foot tall, so you can use it for a small short hedge at the front of a bed or walkway. It has the added benefit that you can also cook with it. Give it a try; it really is a quite attractive plant. Full sun and good drainage. It is evergreen here in Texas.
Pampas Grass: Pampas grass is the tall grasslike plant you see growing around parks and apartment complexes. Our daughter has one in front of her apartment in Dallas. They need full sun and can get 8 feet tall and wide, so give them plenty of room. The decorative plumes can be used in flower arrangements; they last a long time.
Pyracantha: This large, evergreen shrub has pretty orange berries in the fall and winter. It is thorny and can get quite large. You had better not let it get out of control, or you will have a painful experience prunning it. Needs good drainage and sun.
Red Yucca: This is an evergreen which is more of an accent plant than a shrub. It gets 3 to 4 feet tall and wide, with reddish pink flower spikes all summer. It is extremely drought tolerant. Needs full sun and good drainage.
Rosemary: Rosemary is our favorite plant. It has many uses in the landscape. It can be formed into a medium sized shrub, because, here in Texas it will grow quite large--we have seen it close to 5 feet tall and wide. Rosemary can be trimmed into nice shapes; it looks good in a rounded mound shape, and trimmed into a cone shape, much like a Christmas tree. Put your rosemary where people can see it and also smell it. Rosemary has a lovely fragrance. You can cook with this herb also. When you put it in your oven with chicken, the whole house will fill with its delightful aroma. The creeping or trailing varieties make good groundcovers.
Sage: There are many varieties of sage; whole books have been written about just this one kind of plant. You will have to do a little research to see if a sage will be right for the purpose you want. The culinary sage that is used as a seasoning, makes a great flower, with long spikes of lavendar. Some sages, such as the gregii varieties, make great shrubs. They stay green almost all year long, but benefit from a heavy trimming in late winter. They will be covered with blooms most of the year. What color depends on the variety--there are many choices and all are excellent. These plants are among the very best for Texas and everyone should have several. Since they get 4 feet tall and wide, just a few of these will fill a lot of bed space for a one-time expense.
Santolina: Santolinas come in a gray or green variety, with the gray being the easiest to find. They are great shrubs that have a lot going for them. They get about 3 feet tall and wide, and need full sun and good drainage. These are good plants to grow with cactus and other drought tolerant plants. Do not overwater them. In the early summer there will be button-like yellow flowers that dry well for arrangements. In addition, the shrubs have a wonderful smell.
Texas Sage: You may have noticed this shrub in the late summer when it is covered with beautiful lavendar blossums. Texas Sage is very beautiful. It gets at least 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide. Plant in full sun with good drainage. Once it is established, you can just forget about it, except to water occasionally when it is really hot and dry.
Viburnum: One variety of this shrub is known as a Snowball Bush. It has big white flowers that form in ball-shaped clusters. It can take sun to some shade and gets 6 to 15 feet tall, so it could be used as a tree. There are both deciduous and evergreen varieties, so be sure that you get the one that is right for you.
Wax Myrtle: This small 8 to 15 foot shrub is a lovely one for Central Texas, similar to the yaupon holly. Plant in sun to part shade.
Wisteria: Spectacular plant with purple flower clusters that resemble grapes. It is really a vine, not a shrub, but it is included here because it is often used as such. Plant in sun to part shade. The main precaution with this plant is that if you do not keep it pruned, it can become a monster, climbing great heights into your trees.
Yucca: Good, tough plant for a sunny spot
in a natural or desert garden. Watch out for the sharp leaves, which can present a danger if you were to fall into this plant. Don't plant this in an area where there will be children. To avoid this problem, choose the Yucca gloriosa, which has softer leaves and is quite pretty.
Alyssum: Alyssums have tiny white, pink, or purple
flowers from very early spring until a hard freeze comes. They also have a wonderful fragrance. This flower is a must in Texas gardens. If conditions are right, it will reseed and you will have volunteer flowers popping up everywhere. This is great, because you can never have too many.
Begonia: Begonias are annual flowers that need good soil
drainage to do well. Check to see if the variety you choose needs sun or shade.
Blackfoot Daisy: This is a tough little white daisy-like wildflower that grows in full sun, often on
rocky hillsides. Do not overwater.
Bluebonnet: Plant this wildflower in full sun in the fall for best
results. Be patient--it could take a couple of years for the seeds to sprout. Now you can
get maroon flowering varieties in honor of Aggies.
Cactus: There are many varieties of cacti for Texas gardens. We tried growing
cactus in a native plant bed and found out that they really do need a bed all to themselves. The
other flowers and plants soon covered them and shaded them out. Plant cactus in a mixture of
sand and loose organic soil. If you overwater you will kill them, so use caution.
Caladium: Caladiums are not flowers, of course, but we included them
here because they are used the same way that flowers are used. Plant the tubers in late April
after the soils have warmed. Great plant for shade gardens. You will have to replant
Canna: Some cannas can get 6 feet tall and spread up to 6 feet wide.
Be sure you know what size you are buying so that you can space them properly. Plant in full
sun in rich soil and fertilize often.
Celosia: Annual flowers with unusual flower spikes. Also called
Cockscomb. You can plant in the spring and again in the fall for color late in the year.
Chrysanthemum: Fall-blooming flowers in many colors. Plant
in the spring. All summer pinch back the plants so that they become bushy. Stop about August 1st. Do
not fertilize after you can see what color the buds are. These plants will spread throughout
a flower bed until they take over everything. You may want to check them often and dig out
the plants that have come up where you don't want them. Chrysanthemums are tough flowers that
will reward your efforts.
Clematis: Clematis (The accent is on the first syllable.) is a flowering vine.
There are several varieties. Among the best are Autumn clematis, with white flowers, and
Scarlet clematis, Clematis texensis the Texas native with red flowers.
Coleus: Coleus is another plant included here because, even though it
is not a flower, it is used the same way. Coleus is one of our better plants. It comes in many beautiful colors
that look wonderful in the shade garden, and now they have come out with a Sun Coleus variety
that can take full sun. Try these great plants; you will not be sorry.
Columbine: Columbine is a shade plant with pretty flowers, available in
several colors. The Texas Columbine is the most successful for our area,
with larger yellow blooms. They bloom in the spring. Plant in shade to part shade in rich soil,
preferablly in the fall.
Cosmos: Cosmos are annuals to plant in full sun in late spring. They
are 2 to 3 feet tall, and come in several colors. This is a plant that makes us happy.
Daffodil: Plant these bulbs in permanent locations in the
garden beds in October or November. They will start to come up in late January or February. They are a
very welcome first sign of spring each year. Daffodils will get thicker each year, and
eventually you will want to dig them up and divide them. Look for the many colors available
Dianthus: These flowers are related to the carnations you
can buy at the florist. The ones you want for your garden will not have as many petals, but
they are very pretty. Dianthus bloom in late winter to early spring, and will usually come
back each year. Occasionally you will have to replant if a harsh winter gets them.
Dusty Miller: A distinctive plant with pretty gray leaves in
several varieties. They do have flowers, but the bright yellow blossums clash with the silvery
leaves. We cut them back to keep them from flowering. We grow them for their lovely leaves. Full sun.
Engelmannia: This is called the Cutleaf Daisy. It has small yellow daisy-like
flowers. It is a perennial wildflower that blooms most of the summer in full sun and
does not need a lot of water.
Heuchara: Heuchara is a nice shade-loving plant with flowers in
the spring. The leaves are also decorative, so you will enjoy them long after the flowers
are gone. Comes in several colors, most commonly pink.
Hibiscus: This tropical flower will produce large, impressive blooms all summer. It does well in pots, and is especially effective when combined on a patio with ferns and other tropical houseplants. It suffers from few diseases. A perennial cultivar that does well here is the Texas Star hibiscus.
Honeysuckle: Honeysuckle is a flowering vine. Some of the types of this plant have escaped cultivation and have sprung up everywhere in the wild. It can be invasive. However, honeysuckle will grow in difficult situations with little water, fertilizer, or care. It can get scruffy-looking, so keep it trimmed and weeded. Red flowering cultivars will attract hummingbirds.
Ice plant: This flower is an annual, but in our climate it usually survives the winter, so treat it as a perennial. It is a low-growing succulent that is covered in pink or purple flowers all summer. All it needs is good drainage to perform very well. If you want more somewhere else, simply break a piece off and stick it in the ground in the desired location. Keep the piece watered until roots form. It will form masses of low-growing flowers. It looks great in rock gardens, but we plant it everywhere. Full sun is best.
Impatiens: These are among our few choices for shade flowers. They come in many color variations. You will enjoy this flower wherever you need shade color. They will need good drainage and make sure they don't get too dry or too wet.
Indian Blankets: This is a wildflower often found growing with bluebonnets. You can grow this flower in your garden. The key to growing wildflowers is to plant them in the fall. This is the natural way, especially if you are starting with the seeds. Remember where you planted them; don't pull them up next spring thinking they are weeds. They need full sun and good drainage.
Iris: Iris are important in any yard. Not only are they beautiful in the spring, but they hold soil in place. This makes them very valuable if you have a slope and want to control erosion. We plant rows of them to hold the soil on hillsides. They get thicker each year. About every third year you will need to dig them up in October and thin them out. Plant the thinnings in a new location. When you plant irises, leave half the bulbs above soil level. Do not cut the leaves off after the plants finish blooming; they need to stay to produce the energy needed for next year's blooms. You may cut the leaves half-way down in late summer, but not before then. Iris are tough, will grow almost anywhere, and have very few diseases. They are well worth any trouble to have them. Occasionally, a plant or two will succumb to disease. You will recognize this because the roots will get mushy and smell bad. Just remove the plant and throw it away. It wouldn't hurt to sprinkle the ground where it grow with horticultural cornmeal to prevent the spread of the disease.
Lantana: Lantana is a flower that you can't do without. It will form large massses of blooms in just one season from one little plant. It will come back year after year unless we get one of those killer freezes. This is one of the best flowers you can spend money on--you will get your money's worth and more. It will need good drainage and full sun, although we have seen it bloom with a little shade during the day. Lantana berries are poisonous, so be careful around kids. I have never seen an animal try to eat them. Lantana does not smell good; maybe that is why. It comes in many colors and all are beautiful. You must remember when you plant the little transplants that these plants will get three or four feet wide, maybe more. Give them plenty of room.
Larkspur: This is an annual, but it will come up readily from seeds every year. It is a tall plant that comes in pinks, purples, and blues. You can plant the seeds in the fall. It will bloom in the spring until it starts to get hot. To get it to reseed, you will need to let a few dry and go to seed. Larkspurs are related to delphiniums. Don't try to grow delphiniums here; they hate Texas because of the heat. Larkspurs maybe delphiniums poor cousin, but they do well here. They are posionous, and they grow in sun or part shade.
Mandevilla: This is a tropical vine. It will need some support to climb as it gets started. It has large pink blooms, so it is one of the best vines for dramatic color. It's glossy leaves are attractive also. Mandevilla will freeze, so replant each year. It will need full sun.
Mexican Heather: Mexican Heather is a wonderful flowering plant that can also be used as a small one-foot shrub at the front of a sunny border. We once saw it planted this way at a home in Waco. It was used as a border in front of larger shrubs as a foundation planting. This is a great idea. It is covered with lovely tiny purple or white flowers that are set off well by its handsome, small dark green leaves. Mexican heather is tough, and sometimes it will make it through the winter, giving you two or more years of pleasure and service. Full sun, though a little shade won't hurt.
Mullein: This is a wildflower. It has large gray, fuzzy leaves in a rosette rising from the ground. A rather ugly flower stock grows to about 4 feet from the middle in the second year. This is a biannual, so the plant will then die, but it reseeds so easily that you will always have some. The flowers are not attractive--grow it for the leaves, but the flower stalks give shelter to insects in the winter that provide food for some of our valuable birds.
Nierembergia: This is a small blue flower that looks attractive mixed with allsyms. It can survive mild winters, but treat as an annual in most years.
Pansy: Pansies can be planted in the fall after it is cooler. They should bloom all winter and spring, finally dying when the weather gets too warm. This is a good plant for winter color.
Periwinkle: Periwinkles are pretty; but there are some disease problems associated with them. To avoid some of their problems, don't plant until the first part of May.
Petunia: Petunias should be used during cooler weather; you can plant them the same time as pansies, though they will freeze. Replant in the spring to enjoy until the heat kills them. Trim back regularly to get a more bushy plant.
Portulaca: This is a succulent that will give you many lovely blooms when planted in full sun, or even a little shade. Looks good in a planter or hanging basket also. Be sure that you have good drainage.
Purple Coneflower: Coneflowers aren't purple--they are pink or white. This plant is a great flower for the sunny garden. Give them enough room. Each plant will need at least 2 feet of space. Butterflies like this plant.
Rose: Roses are spoiled ladies that often don't like our Texas heat, diseases, and insects. The trick is finding a rose that will do well here. The old fashioned roses are the best. Tea roses get black spot and aphids. They never really do well. Ask your nurseryman to reccomend a variety. This is the time to be sure to buy only from a local nursery; don't get a rose from a national chain; they won't give you what you need for your area. Be sure to plant roses in well-amended soil with excellent drainage and full sun with good air circulation. This will help with the problems roses always have. Give them a good trim after they flower. To keep them blooming, trim off spent blooms immediately and don't ever let them form hips (the fruit that is beneath the petals). You can let the last blooms develop hips if your variety is known for large, attractive fruit. Be sure you know how large your variety will get before you plant. Some roses become massive, like the Lady Banks. Find out as much as you can about the variety you before you buy.
Ruellia This is the Mexican petunia. Ruellia will spread profusely, so use it for borders and in areas where you need lots of flowers for little money. Ruellia comes in short and tall forms. The tall ones are kind of ragged
and invasive; we don't like them as well. They also come in blue and pink. The little blue one called "katie" is our favorite; we use it extensively for borders. It will grow anywhere in just about any conditions.
There is also a wild petunia Ruellia humilis that is quite pretty but is also on the invasive side.
Salvia: The greg salvias are wonderful large flowers big enough to use as shrubs. Since the foilage here remains evergreen, they do make wonderful shrubs. Blooms can be found on salvias almost all year around. The healthiest ones seem to be the red greg salvias, but this is a huge group. Some salvias are blue, others white, pink, or purple. The herb, sage, also belongs to this group, and has wonderful lilac blooms itself. There are a few shade-loving salvias. These are usually smaller in final size. Check with your nursery to get the type you need in your situation. Remember that, even though salvias cost a little more than some plants, they will cover 3 to 4 feet of garden area for each plant, last for many years, and be disease free and beautiful. Every garden should have at least one.
Skullcap: This is a foot tall mounding flower that is an herb. It is covered with small pink blooms in the summer. Plant in full sun. This is a lovely plant that should be used more often.
Sweet Potato Vine: This is not a flower, but we listed it here because it belongs in a shade flower garden. It comes in purple or lime green. The lime green ones look really good as companions to coleus or wandering jew vines. They can really light up a dark corner of the shade garden.
Zinnia: Zinnias can be beautiful, and everyone should at least try to grow them. Be ready to step in and plant something in their place if they fail, however. Zinnias can develop mildew diseases very easily. Be sure to plant in well-drained soil in full sun. Get some of the "cut and come again" varieties so you can have cut flowers for inside during the summer.
Asian Jasmine: This is our favorite groundcover. Unlike some of the ivies, this plant has better manners. It can be trimmed nicely, just like you would trim a hedge. See what they have done with this around apartment complexes and you will know how great it is. You can plant this in shade or fairly full sun. Trim it every now and then to keep it looking good, and pull out the weeds that try to grow in it as it is getting started.
Creeping Ficus: Creeping Ficus or Creeping fig vine is a pretty little groundcover. It can also be trained into topiaries. Train it around a wire shape such as a ball or cone. It needs to be in the shade, and be sure it gets enough water.
Germander: Germander is actually an herb, but it makes a wonderful groundcover or even a border shrub. Germander has tiny dark green leaves. In about May and June, it has lavendar flowers covering it. Trim it often to get a good shape and prevent it from becomming leggy. Plant in full to part sun.
English Ivy: The English and Boston ivies are both good groundcovers. Both are carefree, except for keeping them out of areas that you don't want, such as trees. Plant in shade. You will not have to water very often, but check in hot weather and water when wilted.
Lamb's Ears: Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantia), are fuzzy gray leafed plants that will need light shade here. They must have good drainage. You will love to touch this plant as much as look at it. It gets only about a foot tall, but it will spread to cover an area in a few years. I would not choose it as the primary groundcover, as it is too prone to dying back from adverse conditions, but it is a great plant to add variety to the shade garden.
Lemon Balm: This is one of the mints. It will spread like crazy, so be careful where it goes. It has no respect for its neighboring plants. Good for a carefree groundcover. It will live in sun or shade and stays green year-round. This plant smells really good, and the taste of the leaves is much like a lemon cough drop. Gets about a foot and a half tall.
Liriope: Liriope is sometimes known as Monkey Grass. Why, we can't imagine. But this is almost an essential for any garden. It makes great borders around most anything. It is wonderful in controlling soil erosion on slopes. Just plant it across the hill and you won't probably need expensive solutions to erosion. It will spread and spread to fill in, so you will probably not have to buy more once you have some. It stays green year-round, with lavendar spikes in the summer. Liriope prefers shade to part shade. It gets a foot tall. Some taller varieties do exist. If you ask your gardening friends, they will probably have some they will share with you so you don't have to buy any.
Mint: See "Lemon Balm" above. Mint comes in several flavors, so look around. All look about the same, but may smell slightly different. It is a pleasure to trim back mint, it smells so good.
Purple Jew: This plant's real name is Setcreasea. It is a nice, hardy plant that most gardeners like to have somewhere. It will do best with some shade; the sun can scorch its leaves. It will produce some nice contrasting pink blooms in the spring. The foliage is a dark purple. If you want more, just break off a piece and cover it with dirt. Keep the new piece moist for a week and a half. Then it will do just fine with regular watering. This plant will look good with Lamb's Ears and Coleus in the shade garden.
Rosemary (Creeping): Creeping rosemary is the prostrate form of the herb. It will grow along the ground to make a nice, fragrant groundcover in full sun to very light shade. Make sure that, as with all herbs, it gets good drainage.
Sedum: This little gray succulent is a great groundcover. A neighbor near us won Yard of the Month with this growing as the primary accent groundcover around her trees. It is a handsome groundcover that takes very little care. You will have to occasionally weed it. It doesn't need much else. I have never fertilized mine. No special soil requirements are needed. It is supposed to grow in full sun, but it will actually do better with some shade part of the day. Don't put it in areas with foot traffic unless you provide stepping stones (and people will use them), because it will be crushed if stepped on. Again, ask a gardening friend if they have some you can start for your yard. Just break it off anywhere. Cover a little part of it with dirt and keep moist for a couple of weeks. This is a really hard plant to kill.
Thyme: Thyme is another herb that can be used as a fragrant groundcover. You will need sun with a little afternoon shade, if possible, and good drainage. This is a very attractive plant that adds a little Victorian charm to your yard.
Asparagus: This is one of the few perennial vegetables. That means you have to prepare the area where you'll have it extra well. First pick a spot that can be devoted to it for years. You will need rich, deeply dug soil and full sun. You must also have good drainage. Make the planting bed three to four feet wide and however long you want. After you have dug and enriched the soil with lots of compost, dig a trench 10 to 12 inches deep. Place the crowns into the trench and carefully cover with soil and then mulch. Harvest only a few of the spears after two years. Then you can increase your harvest in year three. Don't let your beds get weeds.
Beets: Plant beets 3 inches apart in full sun in well-drained fertile soil. This is a cool season vegetable so you had better plant the seeds in about the last week in January
or in the fall. You can continue to sow seeds every two weeks for the next month. Thin the seedlings to get larger roots. Fertilize when they are six inches tall.
I love the variety 'Chioggia' as the flavor is unsurpassed. When you cut
it open, it has a target in red and white on the inside.
Carrots: Grow in full sun in deep, rich soil without any rocks. Do not overfertilize carrots. Plant in January and February. You can also try for a fall crop, but the heat may prevent you. Mulch around the growing carrots to help prevent weeds and preserve moisture.
Eggplants: Eggplants are treated much like tomatoes in their care and culture. However, they do not get as tall, and remain a pretty plant. They have attractive leaves and interesting fruit. Eggplants come in several varieties. There are the big dark purple ones that you see most often in the grocery store. There are also longer skinnier eggplant fruits. There are also egg-shaped fruits--which is where the name comes from. Try some of the different varieties for a fun change. Eggplants need to be transplanted from nursery stock when danger of frost has past.
Garlic: Garlic needs to be planted in the fall just after the weather cools off in your area. Plant a long row of garlic along the border of your garden. Garlic can take a light shade for part of the day. The plants will grow all winter. In the spring, check the bulbs to see if they have matured. You will probably harvest in late May. Let them dry with the stems attached, and you can hang them up in a braid. Garlic is very good for you, especially fresh from your garden.
Green Beans: Green beans come in two kinds--pole and bush. You have to decide which makes more since for your garden. There are many different varieties of beans. This is a good plant to explore these possibilites in seed catalogs. Plant after danger of frost in fertile sunny soil. One problem with green beans here is spider mites. You will notice little spotting on your leaves. Turn the leaf over and look for tiny red dots that are moving. That's the spider mites. They can completely devaste your garden, green beans, potatoes, and tomatoes in particular. Getting rid of them is most difficult. I would advise you, but nothing I try really helps that much, except not growing the same crop in the same location year after year. Crop rotation can help prevent many insect and disease problems. There are organic sprays for spider mites, and spraying with liquid seaweed may also help. Ask your local nursery. Kelthane is the product that was used for this by those not into organics. It works, but the safety of this product is very questionable and I would never reccommend it for food products. It has been taken off the market from time to time, and may not be available anyway. I would stay away from it.
Melons: This is not a crop for small gardens. Melons of all kinds take up a lot of ground in the garden. Some try tying up melons with pantyhose. This might work, but it sure does look odd! People do fun things with melons. Try scratching a child's name onto the side of a melon while it is little. Then watch the name stretch and grow as the melon matures. You can slip a tiny melon in a jar and watch it grow into a jar shaped melon. (Watch that it doesn't shatter glass when it grows too big, though.) Melons must be planted in warm, frost-free weather. Fertilize regularly and watch for insect pests. Melons like to be planted in hills with three to five seeds.
Onions: Onions need to be planted in the fall after it starts to cool off. The best variety for larger onions is the 1015 onions. You may have a hard time finding these until November. They are supposed to be planted on October 15th--that is the source of the name. These are the big sweet yellow onions you find in the Spring in the grocery store. They only need to be planted in the fall and to receive adaquate moisture until they are harvested in May. Don't overwater though.
Peppers: Peppers are another Texas speciality. They are relatively carefree, as vegetables go. Plant after danger of frost in well-prepared fertile soil Keep watered, especially during the heat of summer. Your peppers can take a little afternoon shade. They may not produce well during the heat of summer. Be patient and let them produce in fall. Sometimes that will be your largest harvest. Don't pick hot and mild peppers or they will all be hot. I use the flimsy cages that Yankees use for tomatoes to surround my peppers.
Potatoes: Plant potatoes on Valentine's Day before the big date that night. Oh, come on, be optimistic. Plant in well prepared, rock-free soil. Try to plant in a new location each year to avoid soil diseases and pests. Fertilize when the flowers first appear. You can start to harvest by gently plunging your finger into the soil near the potato to see how big the tubers are. Or, if you have the patience of Job, wait until the plants die back. Then harvest the whole crop.
Spinach: Spinach must be planted and grown in cool weather. You can try it in the fall and again in the spring. The usual preparation is all that is needed. The secret is timing. You have to grow it and harvest it before it gets hot, or before it freezes in the winter. Don't let it start to go to seed or quality will be lost.
Squash: Squash is grown under the same sort of conditions as melons, though some varieties won't take up the same amount of room. Most people have good luck with squash here in Texas, as someone is always trying to pawn off their excess. Some people have taken to locking their cars at church to prevent this. Plant squash when danger of frost is past, and watch for pests. You may need to spray with an organic pesticide if things get out of hand.
Swiss Chard: This is the only vegetable we consider fool-proof. You would have a hard time killing swiss chard with a black thumb. Really. Plant it in the fall or early spring. Swiss chard can live through freezing weather or boiling summer heat. You will have to water it in the summer. Most insects don't like it. Most diseases don't affect it. We have had all the plants around it eaten by pests, while the swiss chard lived on unaffected. You may be wondering what to do with it. Use it in salads or lightly steam it like spinach. It is good for you too. Swiss chard can live several years. Don't pull up the whole plant; just harvest the leaves you want and it will make more leaves for the next time. Swiss chard sometimes will develop a stalk and can get a few feet high in a couple of years.
Tomatoes: Tomatoes are a challenge that is well-worth the effort--at least I keep telling myself that. Prepare the soil well and add lots of compost. Plant around March 1st throught the 15th. Plant sideways to bury the stem most of the way up; it will form roots there. You can wrap a piece of cardboard around them to prevent cutworms. Don't put the cardboard tightly around the stem; just surround the little plant with a collar about two or three inches in diameter, with about an inch or two underground and the same above. Water well. Fertilize again when the plant sets fruit. You will need to put the tomatoes in a good sturdy cage. The little wimpy cages commonly sold are worthless for tomatoes. Think big and clunky and tall. You can buy a great cage now some places that will fold up for storage during the winter. Be sure to leave room around your cages between plants for you to walk to harvest the fruit. (Yes, tomatoes are fruit, though legally they are vegetables.) Spray every two weeks with Garrett Juice or other organic liquid spray. This may help you with the spider mite population and disease. The best advice I can give you is to plant tomatoes in a different place every year. This is the surest road to success. Also, get your plants from a local nursery. They will have the varieties that grow best in your location. I would not buy determinate tomatoes (patio) but get indeterminate tomatoes that never stop producing fruit. You might try a fall tomato garden. You can start with new plants, but you really have to baby them through the heat of summer, because you have to plant them in July or August. There is another way to renew your plants. Bend down a long stem from your old plant and cover it with soil where it touches the ground. Weight it down with a rock. Water this area and watch to see if roots form. Many times the tomato will put out new branches above this buried part and give you fall tomatoes from this. Just cut down the old plant behind it. I would not detach the new part from the old, as the root system may still be dependent on the old plant to survive. This works reasonably well. Many complain that birds eat their tomatoes. I reccommend picking them just as they begin to ripen to prevent them from getting your hard-earned reward. Good luck!