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Mr. Smarty Plants - Plants for a mixed border in Houston

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Monday - February 22, 2010

From: Houston, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Groundcovers, Shade Tolerant, Herbs/Forbs
Title: Plants for a mixed border in Houston
Answered by: Anne Bossart

QUESTION:

I live in Houston and have a flowerbed I'd like to fill with plants that will look good year-round. The back is already lined with 6-foot shrubs so nothing like that. I'd like something with colorful foliage or foliage that has an interesting texture. Flowering isn't important. The bed gets a lot of shade except for a few hours of hard sun in the late afternoon. Any ideas?

ANSWER:

That is a bit of a tall order, asking for plants that will look good year round (but it is what all Texas gardenenrs are "shooting for").  Even though Houston has a pretty warm climate, there is a winter.  That means herbaceous plants which are native to your area, will have a dormant period (even if they do not die back to the ground) when they do not look so great.  Also, most of the plants which come to mind when you say "colorful foliage" are exotic or non-native (and not as cold hardy as our native plants). You will have to rely on your evergreen shrubs to keep things going for you through the winter and lower your expectations somewhat for the flowerbed.

That is not to say that you cannot have a border that is attractive and interesting.  By choosing plants with contrasting textures (for instance, a fine textured low groundcover with a clump of spider lily growing out of it) your flower bed would be quite interesting to look at.  Have a look at our native plant database Recommended Species for East Texas and then narrow your search to your shady conditions and plant requirements; you will find quite a few suggestions.  The Native Plant Society of Texas website has a Houston specific plant list which is quite comprehensive. They also have a list of recommended sources for native plants. Because Houston actually sits quite close to the intersection of "east, central and south" Texas and plants are not aware of political boundaries, you might also find plants in the local nurseries that are native to Central or South Texas that may thrive in your garden.

Here are some plants from our database that we think you might like to try.  Click on these links; they will take you to the information page for each one.  You will find links on each page to even more information such as a Google search or where you can find the plant or seed.

Perennials

Callirhoe involucrata (purple poppymallow)

Glandularia bipinnatifida (Dakota mock vervain)

Hibiscus aculeatus (comfortroot)

Hymenocallis liriosme (spring spiderlily)

Iris brevicaulis (zigzag iris)

Podophyllum peltatum (mayapple)

Salvia coccinea (blood sage)

Small Shrubs

Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii (wax mallow)

Symphoricarpos orbiculatus (coralberry)

 

From the Image Gallery


Winecup
Callirhoe involucrata

Purple prairie verbena
Glandularia bipinnatifida

Comfortroot
Hibiscus aculeatus

Spring spiderlily
Hymenocallis liriosme

Zigzag iris
Iris brevicaulis

Mayapple
Podophyllum peltatum

Scarlet sage
Salvia coccinea

Turk's cap or turkscap
Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

Coralberry
Symphoricarpos orbiculatus

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