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Mr. Smarty Plants - Will lilacs survive in Houston?

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Monday - October 26, 2009

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Will lilacs survive in Houston?
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

My wife loves the smell of Lilacs (we're originally from Oregon), but we don't see any here in Houston. Is it possible to get lilacs to survive in Southeast Texas?

ANSWER:

 
The mission of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is to increase the sustainable use and conservation of native wildflowers, plants and landscapes.
 
So even if lilacs could survive in Houston (they suffer badly from powdery mildew and drop their leaves when summer is hot and humid even as far north as Philadelphia), we would recommend you not plant them.  Even though they are not native to North America, they are ubiquitous in the northern states and Canada and their fragrance evokes the memory of the begining of summer to all Northerners. But the north is where they belong and where they should stay.
 
Lady Bird lamented "Why can't Texas look like Texas?" long before every town had a Wal-Mart, Home Depot and identical restaurant chains. As a fellow northern transplant, I understand why you would want to have a familiar friend in your garden, but I encourage you to get to know and embrace the many very special native Texas plants that will thirve in this climate, which can be quite harsh.
 
Although nothing can mimic a lilac's fragrance,  you might try Texas' own purple flowering, overwhelmingly fragrant harbinger of spring ... Texas Mountain Laurel.  It is native to the Hilll Country and not the Houston area so it is drought tolerant and requires good drainage.  If you decide to plant one, make sure it is sited with good drainage on a berm or in another raised area.
 
 
 
 

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