Unless otherwise noted in the *plant descriptions: Hand water three times a week for three weeks, then twice a week for two weeks to establish. Sites with shallow soils and persistent breezes may need one additional weekly watering the first five weeks to establish. Sites with deeper soils may require one less weekly watering the first five weeks to establish. Generally after the first two weeks, a nice rain means you can skip watering that week completely. Mature plants generally don’t require supplemental watering.
For guidance on how to plan your garden bed, see our suggested designs.
Trees (min. size 5 gallons)
Sun to part shade; can be evergreen with south wall protection, otherwise deciduous. Orchid-like white flowers occur in spring and periodically throughout the year. A multi-trunked small specimen tree or a mounding shrub; it performs well in rocky soil.
Crape Myrtle(10′-25′; no dwarf) Full sun only; crape myrtles will not bloom well in the shade around your live oaks. Bare in winter. A wide range of sizes, forms, and pink, purple and white varieties are available, with attractive trunks, peeling bark and terrific fall color.
Desert WillowFull sun. Deciduous, with narrow leaves. Pink tubular flowers throughout the warm season. Very drought tolerant; do not overwater, especially in winter. Desert willow has an irregular growth habit and blooms on new wood only; it responds well to pruning.
European OliveFull sun or light shade. Evergreen, silvery green leaves with white undersides. Can be grown in small orchards in the residential landscape, though fruit production is very dependent upon ideal cultivation, irrigation and climactic conditions (mild winters, and long dry summers). Olive is long-lived and drought hardy and tolerates alkaline soils. Cold tolerance increases with age; small trees may be damaged in extreme winters and killed below 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Of the many recommended varieties, ‘arbequina’ and ‘mission’ are among the hardiest.
Laurel ViburnumSun or shade. Evergreen, with ovate leaves and pink or white flowers in spring. ‘Spring Bouquet’ is a widely available cultivar. On its own it may grow to tree form, but it’s often seen as a hedge. Allow it about two years to establish fully.
Mexican BuckeyeSun/part shade; deciduous (with excellent yellow fall color!) Fragrant pink flowers resemble redbud but appear a bit later in spring. The large seed pods provide winter interest. It can usually be substituted for redbud, but it’s lower, wider and bushier. It can be trained to an upright tree form with some effort.
Mexican OliveSun; nearly evergreen; very ornamental, with large, thick leaves, a rounded crown and, often, multiple trunks. White trumpet flowers appear all summer long and sometimes year-round. It drops leaves in extreme freezes and can be damaged by subfreezing temperatures (15 degrees F), but even then it returns vigorously from the roots to regain full size. If in doubt, give it a south wall location or frost protection, especially north of San Antonio. In deeper soils, Mexican olive is drought-hardy and it survives without irrigation along roadsides and highways in the Rio Grande Valley.
Mexican PlumSun or shade. Deciduous, with attractive striated bark, resembling a cherry. Fragrant white/pink flowers appear in late winter. Fruits are edible but small and somewhat sour. The leaves droop heavily at the end of summer, before they drop, but don’t be fooled: Mexican plum is drought-hardy as long as soils are deep enough.
Mexican/Texas RedbudMorning sun or dappled shade (it won’t bloom as well in the dark under live oaks.) Deciduous, with thick heart-shaped leaves; blooms pink, magenta and purple, very early in spring and sometimes by Valentine’s Day; fast growing.
Possumhaw HollySun/partial shade; deciduous, with dull paddle-shaped leaves resembling yaupon holly. Admired for the red fruit, which persists through winter when the tree is bare. Attracts fruit-eating birds.
Roughleaf DogwoodSun/part shade; deciduous, with the characteristic large, heavily veined teardrop-shaped leaves of dogwood. White flowers appear in spring, with bountiful fruit in autumn. Versatile and thicket forming, especially common at creek sides and deep understory. Nice fall color; this is a natural addition to any wildscape edge.
Texas Mountain LaurelSun; evergreen, with thick round compound leaflets and grape-scented flowers in March or April. Bright red seeds are poisonous. In this area, mountain laurel is most commonly found on dry limestone ledges with excellent drainage, but it can be grown in clay and sandy soil. It is a very popular landscape plant, virtually indestructible except by overwatering and fertilizing. It grows very slowly.
Texas PersimmonFull sun, or partial shade. Deciduous, with a dense twiggy crown. Attractive silvery bark peels in a manner resembling crape myrtle. Female specimens bear sweet black fruit in late summer with a taste like fig or prune. (The black juice can stain, so brush your teeth.) Persimmon is very, very slow growing but long-lived, strong-wooded, and quite striking. It is a popular ornamental and grows wild throughout Bexar County, even in thin rocky soils.
Texas PistacheFull sun or part shade. Semi-evergreen, with small compound leaflets and red fruit clusters in autumn. Grows naturally to a loose, airy tree form, but also cultivated as a hedged shrub. A Texas native, in canyon country and along the Rio Grande.
Yaupon Holly(standard only; no dwarf) Sun or shade; evergreen. Red winter fruits provide a spectacular show and attract birds and wreath-makers. Yaupon can be sheared into a variety of forms, but on its own forms a small multi- or single-trunked tree or large shrub with a drooping canopy. It performs better in deeper soils.
Shrubs (min. size 1 gallon)
Barbados CherrySun/shade; a tropical evergreen shrub or small tree (there are many different growth habits.) Usually seen locally with a soft-rounded form that can be sheared or left as a free-form specimen. It’s better adapted to the deep clays and loams of central, southern and eastern Bexar County than to Hill Country rock. In subfreezing winter temperatures it may drop leaves. Pink-and-yellow flowers earn it the name ‘wild crape myrtle’ but it is best known for its tiny, tart fruits, high in vitamin C. The fruit is appealing to many types of wildlife.
CenizoFull sun (in shade, cenizo tends to grow leggy.) Evergreen, with silvery foliage. Sweet-scented pink flowers appear briefly after rains in summer and fall. Cenizo tolerates poor soil, full sun, and drought, and thrives with or without rain. It is among the most drought-tolerant of all large landscape shrubs and makes a useful standard by which others can be measured. It’s a frequent victim of overwatering and over-hedging.
Earth-Kind® Roses (all)Sun; not suitable for shallow soils; evergreen with cherry red or brilliant pink flowers that bloom from spring until frost. The complete list of Earth-Kind rose cultivars can be found on the Texas AgriLife Extension Service website.
Juniper speciesSun or partial sun. Evergreen, with soft fragrant foliage with a tremendous variety of forms and shades. “Pfitzer” and “sargent” are common cultivars of Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis) that emphasize low, shrub-like forms. Many ornamental junipers are adapted to cooler, wetter climates, and the stress of hot summer nights and rust disease keeps them from naturalizing here, but in the right setting they make a nice accent.
LiriopePart or full shade; evergreen, with dark green lily-like spreading foliage. An adaptable low-maintenance groundcover or specimen often used in formal or shaded landscapes, especially around live oaks. Inconspicuous flower spikes.
Muhly (all)Sun or partial shade. An outstanding fine-textured, clumping grass with ornamental seed plumes and silvery-grey or pink foliage. There are three commonly used varieties: Lindheimer’s muhly is the silver-blue Hill Country native; Gulf muhly is the smaller one with pink flowers in autumn; and Bamboo muhly is the billowing, curly-leaved Arizona variety. All are widely used and hardy. Lindheimer’s muhly is the one often used on thinner soils, especially around seeps. It is often cropped in late winter to control the size and reduce the accumulation of spent leaves.
Primrose JasmineSun/shade; evergreen, with yellow flowers briefly in spring. Long, arching branches create a mounding form and root where they touch the ground, making a huge, dense, cascading evergreen screen. Unwatered, it makes a 5′ hedge, but under irrigation can become quite large, swallowing up shrubs, trees, and entire landscapes. It prefers deeper soils.
RosemarySun or shade. Evergreen. Whether trailing or upright in form, rosemary is a tough herb that is often used as a small foundation shrub. Trailing rosemary cascades beautifully down retaining walls and rocky slopes, and upright rosemary branches make great barbecue skewers. Both types boast light lavender-blue flowers that bloom spring through fall.
SagoSun, but appreciates some afternoon shade in summer. Evergreen to 15 degrees F (trunk damage may occur below 10 degrees, especially with ice). Sago is an ancient plant, with arching glossy leaves and a palm-like form. It is extremely drought hardy once established; adult plants can go for months without supplemental water. Even if plants begin to drop leaves or desiccate in drought, they can usually recover after rain. Overwatering leads to crown and root rot. The leaf bases bear sharp tips and may require gloves for close handling.
Yucca/Agave/Cacti/Sotol/Nolina (all)Sun or partial shade. These evergreen, drought-hardy succulents add architectural interest to any landscape. Flowers attract birds and bees. Many have sharp thorns; however, thornless varieties are available. Sotol leaves have rough edges but do not have thorns.
*Nursery partner prices and customer plant selection and size will determine the plant package’s final cost. Please feel free to compare prices at participating retailers.
Just because it’s cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t spend time in your garden. Tool maintenance and prepping your landscape for new plantings are two tasks you can tend to now.Winter has arrived, but just because it's cold outside doesn’t mean you can’t spend time in your garden. Tool maintenance and prepping your landscape for new plantings are two tasks you can tend to now.
You’re probably looking for an excuse to get out of the house anyway so why not tackle activities that can be done when the weather isn’t perfect?
There are several chores you can do to keep up your garden during the cold months. Tool maintenance is especially important as is prepping your landscape for new plantings.
Tools that haven’t been cared for or properly maintained will not work to your advantage when it comes time to use them. You will spend more time trying to get the job done and may even have to chuck the tools in the garbage can and start over.
Kelly Ann Cameron