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Thursday - January 01, 2009

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Planting, Shrubs, Trees
Title: Plants for winter installation in Houston
Answered by: Barbara Medford


What plants can you plant in the winter, Houston, Texas?


We're not sure if you're just wanting something to plant right now for the fun of it, or if you are planning an extensive garden, and want to start now. Either way, we can tell you that, in the southern United States, woody plants are best planted in the late fall to late winter. Woody plants are generally shrubs and trees, some evergreen, some deciduous. This is the best time for those plants because they usually have pretty substantial roots, and can be damaged by being dug up and moved; however, in cooler weather, they become somewhat dormant and are therefore more likely to survive without suffering transplant shock. In this part of the country, heat is a bigger enemy of newly-planted material than cold, and the plants need time to establish their roots before the heat begins.

We have a couple of How-To Articles that you might be interested in, and then we'll get down to specific woody plants to plant now. The first is Gardening Timeline, which will give you an idea of what you can most effectively do at various seasons in your garden. A Guide to Native Plant Gardening will help you in your selection of plants. At the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center we are focused on the planting, care for and protection of plants native not only to North America but to the area in which they are being grown. Plants native to any area are already accustomed to the climate, amount of moisture and type of soil, thus they will need less water, fertilizer and maintenance than an imported non-native. 

For selecting plants, we will go to our Recommended Species section and click on East Texas on the map. This will get you a list of 133 plants native to and recommended for your area. Not all of these are going to be woody plants, and you probably don't want to wade through reading every plant webpage. So, click on NARROW YOUR SEARCH and select first for "shrubs" under Habit. Then click on the Narrow Your Search box at the bottom of the page. Now you have 23 choices, and we have chosen 4 of our favorites to list for you. You can look at each webpage by clicking on the scientific name for the plant, and find out what type of soil it likes, how much moisture it needs, etc. These plants are all commercially available. When you have looked at these, you can go back to Recommended Species and make your own list, this time selecting also for "Light Requirement", "Duration" and "Soil Moisture" to find plants more suitable to the location you have in mind. 


Callicarpa americana (American beautyberry) - 3 to 5 ft. tall, deciduous, striking purple fruit, needs part shade (2 to 6 hours of sun a day)

Ilex decidua (possumhaw) - deciduous, but female has gorgeous red berries in winter. Dioecious, which means there must be a male of the same species within 30 to 40 ft. in order for the female to grow berries.

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow) - 2 to 3 ft. tall, deciduous, does well in shady situations, bright red flowers from May to November, attracts hummingbirds

Morella cerifera (wax myrtle) - evergreen, 6 to 12 ft. tall, fragrant foliage, attracts birds but, again, both male and female plants must be present to produce berries.

Next, we'll select some trees, doing the same thing, going to Recommended Species, but this time choosing "Trees" under Habit. This gave us 44 possibilities, of which we are listing 4 examples.


Cercis canadensis var. texensis (Texas redbud) - 10 to 20 ft., deciduous, blooms pink and purple April and May

Crataegus marshallii (parsley hawthorn) - To 25 ft, deciduous, ornamental foliage, deeply cut, looks like parsley,  white blooms March to May.

Ilex opaca (American holly) - 25 ft., evergreen, dioecious, slow growing, bitter seeds attract birds but can be toxic to humans if ingested

Magnolia grandiflora (southern magnolia) - evergreen, fragrant large white flowers, may grow 50 to 100 ft. tall, but some smaller cultivars like "Little Gem" are available

Callicarpa americana

Ilex decidua

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Morella cerifera

Cercis canadensis var. texensis

Crataegus marshallii

Ilex opaca

Magnolia grandiflora






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