Grow tough beneficial natives to help upgrade your landscaping situation | Columnists

Phyllis Webster earned a degree in journalism before embarking on a long career in public relations and marketing. A Granbury resident since 1998, she has been deeply involved in the community. She is an award-winning writer and photographer, as well as a Master Gardener. She has authored Garden Patch since 2001.

Texas landscaping is a challenge. It’s perhaps more trial and error than tried and true. Conditions are particularly difficult compared to places where drought, flood and dramatic temperature fluctuations are rare. However, Texas is blessed with tough native plants. No matter where you live in the Lone Star State, you’ll find myriad native plants that perform well in the area’s climatic and soil conditions.

Many naturalized and well-adapted plants are also available. What’s the difference? Plants may be well adapted to specific regions of Texas although they originate from another place. Crape myrtles, for example, are native to Asia. Naturalized plants do not originate in America either, but they were introduced so long ago that most people think they are indigenous. Many escaped cultivation to reproduce in the wild. An example is the vitex tree, which is native to the Mediterranean.

In some settings, well adapted and naturalized plants compete with native plants for resources, such as water. If a non-native overtakes and threatens to eliminate natives, the plant may be declared an invasive pest and possibly banned from sale.

Native plants are resilient because they are best adapted to the climate and soils where they originated. Besides their durability, native plants are advantageous in the home landscape because they support native wildlife with food and shelter. Examples of these interdependent relationships are birds, butterflies and bees. Red yucca, for instance, is one of many xeriscape plants with blooms and seed to feed wild creatures. Get to know beneficial natives including:

Cenizo— Also known as Texas Sage, this mostly evergreen shrub grows 3 to 8 feet tall, depending upon variety. Cenizo has attractive gray-green foliage and sports purple or white blooms when humidity is high. This shrub serves as a habitat for birds and mammals. Grow it in full sun to part shade. If needed, prune cenizo in winter to promote dense growth.

Yaupon and possumhaw hollies — These hollies are very drought- and cold-tolerant (to zero or lower) when established. Both thrive in full sun to part shade producing brilliantly colored berries, which birds love to eat. Evergreen yaupon holly is one of the most dependable landscape plants in Texas. Size ranges from 4-15 feet depending upon type. Possumhaw holly is deciduous. It may be trained into a large shrub or small tree.

Autumn sage — Also known as Salvia greggii, this low-growing woody perennial is semi-evergreen. Red, pink, purple or white tubular-shaped blooms cover this plant from spring through fall. Butterflies and hummingbirds feast on their nectar! Plant autumn sage in clusters or borders to showcase their bright green, aromatic leaves and colorful flowers. Before new spring growth, trim autumn sage back by a half to maintain its dense form.

Other natives with fruit or flowers to support wildlife include flame acanthus, yellow bells, beautyberry and agave.

For answers to your horticulture questions, please call the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 or go online to visit

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