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Mr. Smarty Plants - Plants for full-sun landscape

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Tuesday - November 20, 2007

From: Joshua, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Non-Natives, Grasses or Grass-like, Herbs/Forbs, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Plants for full-sun landscape
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I live in a very rocky area just outside of Fort Worth, TX. It's taken me all spring, summer & now I'm going into the fall, to landscape just 30 feet in front of my house. The front of the house gets full sun from 10:30 til sundown in the summer time. I'd like to know what are the best plants, preferably plants that will tolerate the cold winter & rebloom in the spring, or plants that will live through all 4 seasons (perennials?) I've planted 2 azaleas, something called a Mexican cigar (cigarette?) and Mexican petunias along the border. I just bought some cyclamen but am not sure I should plant them in the flower bed. I also bought some Indian hawthorn & some pansies. Which plants should I keep in pots to protect them from the elements and which are ok to plant in the flower bed? The front faces northwest, mostly west. What other plants do you recommend?

ANSWER:

Had you asked us before you started buying plants, we would have made some different recommendations. You see, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is all about using native plants in the landscape. Plants native to an area will need less artificial watering, fertilizer and pest control, because they are already adapted to that area. So, any recommendations we give you now are going to be not only native to North America, but native to your area. But first, we'll talk a little about the things you have already purchased and/or planted.

Azaleas are rhododendrons, and many of those native to North America seem to be naturally distributed everywhere BUT Texas, with most of them showing up in the Northeast, Southeast and Northwest. But there are four azaleas that are distributed naturally in Texas: Rhododendron canescens (mountain azalea), Rhododendron oblongifolium (Texas azalea), Rhododendron prinophyllum (early azalea), Rhododendron viscosum (swamp azalea). Most azaleas are at their best in fairly mild, humid climates. Filtered sunlight is ideal but morning sunlight with shade after 1:00 p.m. is satisfactory. The site you described is probably going to be very difficult for azaleas. This University of Missouri Extension website will give you cultural information that might help.

Cyclamen is Meditteranean in origin, as well as northeast Africa. Cyclamen are more often treated as frost-tender pot plants, and frequently grown inside for winter blooms. This University of Minnesota Extension website will give you good information on care.

Pansies are fairly sturdy winter bloomers, a biennial which is usually purchased as bedding plants, ready to bloom. Their origin is European, but they have been so extensively hybridized it's hard to say what they are. This Texas Cooperative Extension site is a good one on pansies.

Cuphea ignea (cigar plant) is native to Mexico and the islands of West Indies. It is a frost tender tropical plant, and in Zone 8 may be killed back to roots by frost, but usually returns. It is also sometimes called a "cigarette plant."

Raphialepsis indica (Indian hawthorn) is a native of southern China that is a good spring bloomer which tolerates some shade but blooms better in sun. It needs to be planted in full sun or partial shade, flowers best in sun, and the soil needs to be kept uniformly moist until the plants are established.

Let me refer you to an earlier Mr. Smarty Plants answer concerning Katy Ruellia, which is a native of Mexico, and might be the Mexican petunia to which you refer. This is most likely the one sold in nurseries, and you will note that Mr. Smarty Plants refers you to several species of Ruellia which are native to Texas, and hopefully not as invasive.

Finally, we get to our real interest, plants native to North America. We don't know exactly what you are trying to accomplish in your garden, so we are going to suggest some personal favorites in various sizes, all perennial. When you click on each link, you will go to a page with a complete description of sun and water needs, blooming time, mature sizes, etc.

Herbs: Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed) and Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow)

Subshrubs: Ageratina havanensis (Havana snakeroot) and Chrysactinia mexicana (damianita)

Shrubs: Dalea frutescens (black prairie clover) and Eysenhardtia texana (Texas kidneywood)

Trees: Cercis canadensis var. mexicana (Mexican redbud) and Chilopsis linearis (desert willow)

Grasses: Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana (silver beardgrass) and Chasmanthium latifolium (Inland sea oats)

Now, you're ready to make your own choices. Go to our Native Plant Database and, using the Combination Search, decide what colors, bloom times, sizes, shapes, etc. you want, and go shopping in the pages the links will take you to. Where do you find all these plants, you say? Go to our list of Native Plant Suppliers for Texas, where you will find several with addresses, e-mail or phone numbers in the Dallas-Ft. Worth area.


Rhododendron oblongifolium

Asclepias tuberosa

Callirhoe involucrata

Ageratina havanensis

Chrysactinia mexicana

Pediomelum cuspidatum

Eysenhardtia texana

Cercis canadensis var. mexicana

Chilopsis linearis

Bothriochloa laguroides ssp. torreyana

Chasmanthium latifolium

 

 

 

 

 

 

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