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Friday - March 14, 2014

From: Brownsville, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Rain Gardens, Drought Tolerant, Erosion Control
Title: Raingarden Plants for Brownsville, TX
Answered by: Larry Larson


I'm a Landscape Architect in South Texas and I'm implementing raingardens and vegetated swales in my projects. What native plants could be used in these gardens/water runways. They would need to resist both, wet soils when flooded and dry soils. I would appreciate any recommendations on trees, shrubs, wildflowers, grasses. Thank you very much.


Greetings;  Mr Smarty Plants sees this as a interesting challenge.  A raingarden in deep south Texas!

My normal research approach to this kind of challenge includes checking out what Mr Smarty Plants has considered before.  Here are some question/answer pairs which are close to your request either in context or in area:
Reseeding of the Laguna  Atascosa 
Native grasses for erosion control in Harlingen, TX 
Landscaping on South Padre Island 
Replacing non-native St. Augustine with native grasses in Rockport TX
Plants for erosion control in arid region 

And here are a few, from a bit farther afield, on establishing a raingarden:

Rain garden plants for Central Texas  
Managing a wet area in Austin 
Grasses for dry bottom detention ponds   [Pearland Area]  

  None of these struck me as right on, so I also reviewed likely South Texas natives for suitability for erosion control and for both the wet and dry situations you describe.  The Wildflower Center keeps lists of appropriate recommended species; this link is to that list for the South Texas Plains. I reviewed this list for natives that are well acclimated to both dry soils and ones that are wet or at least moist. There aren’t all that many so I list them here:

Grasses:  Bouteloua curtipendula (Sideoats grama)Melica nitens (Three-flower melic), Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass), Sorghastrum nutans (Indiangrass)

Shrubs  Ceanothus americanus (New jersey tea), Cordia boissieri (Mexican olive), Prunus rivularis (Creek plum), Rhus aromatica (Fragrant sumac)  

Herbs [Wildflowers]: Callirhoe involucrata (Winecup)Chamaecrista fasciculata (Partridge pea)Cooperia drummondii (Evening rain lily), Geum canadense (White avens)Helianthus maximiliani (Maximilian sunflower)Justicia pilosella (Gregg's tubetongue)Oenothera speciosa (Pink evening primrose)Ratibida columnifera (Mexican hat)Rudbeckia hirta (Black-eyed susan), Ruellia nudiflora (Violet ruellia)Rubus trivialis (Dewberry)Salvia coccinea (Scarlet sage)Solidago canadensis (Canada goldenrod)Verbesina virginica (Frostweed)Wedelia texana (Zexmenia)

Trees :  Ptelea trifoliata (Wafer ash)  (good for wet soils also],  Cordia boissieri (Mexican olive)Cornus drummondii (Roughleaf dogwood)Morus rubra (Red mulberry)Parkinsonia aculeata (Retama)

  For erosion control, we recommend grasses and shrubs with extended root systems that can hold the soil against the water action.  I did not sort the above list for this, but a bit of study of the plants will reveal these characteristics. For instance, If you review the grasses, note that three of them will form clumps, which is good for erosion.  The melica nitens is less likely to be usefull for this application.


From the Image Gallery

Sideoats grama
Bouteloua curtipendula

Mexican olive
Cordia boissieri

Panicum virgatum

Callirhoe involucrata

Mexican hat
Ratibida columnifera

Scarlet sage
Salvia coccinea

Roughleaf dogwood
Cornus drummondii

Wafer ash
Ptelea trifoliata

Parkinsonia aculeata

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