CERTIFIED TEXAS EXPERT GARDENER — Native plants can make gardening easy

Published 12:02 am Wednesday, March 13, 2024

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We recently returned from a mini vacation visiting friends and family in Brownsville during Charros days (Sombrero Festival).

This is a wonderful annual, family oriented event, which we have been attending for many years and I highly recommend taking your family to enjoy the multiple parades, taste some of the many flavors of authentic Mexican food while enjoying the Sombrero festival.

While in South Texas, we were invited to attend a barbeque at Cyndi & Gilbert Hinojosa’s residence. Cyndi, a Justice of the Peace, Precinct 2 (Place 2) and husband Gilbert (State judge) welcomed us as family and how quickly I was amazed by the number of beautiful plants surrounding the outdoor areas.

Naturally, my attention was focused on people … not! I was completely enthralled by the numerous, large planters filled with beautiful succulents, such as Crown-of-Thorns, desert rose, Mexican Bird-of-Paradise and others … flourishing.

Every container was scrutinized (and envied) as the plants were thriving! I always enjoy conversations with other gardeners about plant selections and Cyndi was no exception (don’t roll your eyes as every gardener does this-it’s our nature), as she quickly offered me numerous cuttings on the spot.

Naturally, decorum dictated that I decline her offer. OK, OK, I admit, I did ask to return on another day to accept her offer … which I did.

After returning home with a bag of cuttings, they were allowed to callous several days before being planted in multiple pots yesterday. This leads me to today’s topic: plant selection, which I like to discuss before many gardeners begin Spring planting.

Last summer was arduous with many plants (trees included) succumbing to our hostile growing environment. Seasonal environmental stress from blistering Summer’s, extended droughts and bitterly cold Winters are proving to be insurmountable for many plant types, requiring multiple seasons to heal.

Due to the increased stress placed on plants grown in our region, we need to consider plants, which are proven to handle our environmental conditions. This might be indicative of things to come or become much more problematic for us all once spring evolves into a hot, prolonged Texas summer.

Now is the time for us all to focus on water conservation before we once again become deeply embedded in another drought. The availability of fresh water is limited, and it is Texas most precious natural resource, please do your part to conserve water.

Water conservation doesn’t mean as gardeners we must give up gardening or scaling back our gardens. We can enjoy having a beautiful garden, which expresses seasonal interest while conserving water through our plant selections.

Smart plant choices by utilizing native plants, and Texas Superstar plants will require minimal effort to maintain plants, with little after care once plants are established. This means little water and fertilizer other than amounts provided by nature.

This gardener tends to group Texas Superstar® and native plants together into one large category (this isn’t technically correct…oh well). Texas Superstar plants are plants that are rigorously tested by Texas A&M AgriLife and numerous plant experts, to determine if they qualify to be called Texas Superstar.

These plants have been observed by experts for several years at numerous locations throughout the State of Texas, watching their performance in specific landscapes. If the plant does well in all areas of the state, it might then be added to the Texas Superstar list.

This list of plants includes annuals, perennials, trees, shrubs, and specialty plants (including vegetables). Some of you might be familiar with some of the Texas Superstar plants, such as the Texas Bluebonnet, Plumbago, Laura Bush Petunia, Mexican Bush Sage, Belinda’s Dream Rose, and Deciduous Holly.

For a complete list of the Texas Superstar plants, visit the Texas Superstar website: http://texasSuperstar.com/plants/index.html.

Natives are exactly as the name implies, plants that are indigenous, in our case native to Texas. Some examples of native plants: Cardinal Flower, Indian Pink, Southern Wood Fern, Black-eyed Susan, Milkweed and Texas Mountain Laurel with too many other to name.

Native plants are most often perennial and for more specific information on Texas native plants visit the Native Plant Society of Texas website: https://npsot.org/wp/.

Most Texas Superstar and native plants are sun-loving, so care must be taken when choosing a planting location. All are drought tolerant but need to be watered until well-established or if rainfall is scarce.

The location you choose will be their home for many years. Note there are plants in both groups, native and Texas Superstar, which can provide visual interest, structure, and blooms for each season, allowing you the freedom to create your own personal, dramatic landscape for year-round visual appeal.

As a bonus, many of these plants are pollinator magnets great for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds. Remember, an organic garden allows all wildlife to enjoy and benefit from the show!

Let’s go out and grow ourselves a greener, more sustainable world, one plant at a time.

Send Certified Texas Expert Gardener John Green your questions and please continue sending comments to jongreene57@gmail.com.