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Sunday - February 10, 2008

From: Austin, TX
Region: Southeast
Topic: Shrubs
Title: Native trees and shrubs for bloom various times of year
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I live in Southwest Austin and have a garden that spans the length of our back fence. It gets approximately 6 hours of sun. We currently have two trees (which we think are Bradford Pears) and three small evergreen shrubs, but the rest of the garden is empty. We'd like to add 1 or 2 more trees, possibly with one that flowers, and would like for them to be fast growers. In front of the trees, we'd like to plant flowering shrubs. Our goal is to block the view of the fence and have plants that bloom at various times of the year. Can you please suggest some varieties that would do well?


For openers, we are going to recommend only trees and shrubs native to North America and, where possible, native or well-adapted to Central Texas. These are plants that already toughened up and prepared to take whatever Texas weather, soil and wind can do, well, nearly. It's important to us at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center that native plants be used wherever and whenever possible. Doing so can cut down on water, pesticide and fertilizer use and with it, runoff containing things you don't want in your drinking water.

Go to The Pros and Cons of Bradford Pears to determine if that is the tree you already have, just so you'll know what to watch out for. We're certainly not suggesting that you get rid of existing trees just because they are not native. The Bradford Pear is a native of China and Korea, and has some structural weaknesses, due to fast growth and branches growing too close together. So, keep an eye out for problems; the tree may not last past 20 years, but maybe that length of time is enough.

For your specific situation, we are going to suggest not just trees and shrubs but some perennial sub-shrubs or flowering plants to give different levels in height, different textures, different colors and different times of blooming. Because we can't do a comprehensive landscape plan for a piece of land we've never seen, we will make some suggestions and then tell you how to find your own ideas from our Native Plant Database. We first searched on State: Texas, Habit: Tree, Duration: Perennial, Light Requirement: Sun 6 hours or more a day, and Soil Moisture: Dry. You can also add, if you wish: Bloom Characteristics, search by month(s) of bloom and color desired. We should also note that we have grouped Trees and Shrubs together, as many of these will grow and can be pruned to tree shape, but are not tall, while a few will grow really tall, but slowly.

As you can see, the problem is knowing how to start, but not how to stop. These are all personal favorites, but you can certainly find your own personal favorites just as easily. Read the description pages the links will take you to in order to find out when (and if) they bloom, if they attract butterflies, what color the blooms are, what size they are expected to grow to, etc.


Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud)

Chilopsis linearis (desert willow)

Cotinus obovatus (American smoketree) or Texas Smoketree

Prunus mexicana (Mexican plum)

Quercus fusiformis (plateau oak) or Escarpment Oak

Rhus lanceolata (prairie sumac)

Sophora secundiflora (Texas mountain-laurel) Flowers and seeds poisonous

Ungnadia speciosa (Mexican buckeye) Mildly poisonous seeds


Asclepias tuberosa (butterfly milkweed)

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow) or Winecup

Conoclinium greggii (palmleaf thoroughwort) or Gregg's Mistflower

Coreopsis lanceolata (lanceleaf tickseed)

Echinacea purpurea (eastern purple coneflower)

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow) or Turk's Cap

Ratibida columnifera (upright prairie coneflower) or Mexican Hat

Tetraneuris scaposa var. scaposa (stemmy four-nerve daisy)

Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Chilopsis linearis

Cotinus obovatus

Prunus mexicana

Quercus fusiformis

Rhus lanceolata

Sophora secundiflora

Ungnadia speciosa

Callirhoe involucrata

Conoclinium greggii

Coreopsis lanceolata

Echinacea purpurea

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Ratibida columnifera

Tetraneuris scaposa var. scaposa







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