The Natives Are Restless!

When I first started working at Rainbow Gardens, I was pretty limited in my knowledge about plants. I mean, I could tell you the difference between a petunia and a pansy, I knew that tomatoes needed to be staked and vines needed to be trellised, but it wasn’t until I was immersed in the nursery culture that I really began to learn about plants. Fast forward eight years and there isn’t much that feels better at work than when I am able to share what I’ve learned and steer a customer in the direction towards the right plant for the right conditions of their landscape. There are days when I see a little of my former self in some customers; when they want so badly to purchase a plant that just won’t survive in the conditions they have. I remember my stubbornness and the money I wasted when I would fall in love with a plant, only to have it turn on me and either go up in flames from our hot summer sun, or freeze and die in the cold winter temperatures. But still, I tried all sorts of plants without giving a second thought to their natural habitats. So what if the plant was native to another country? I could love it enough to make it live through 100 plus temperatures! Not! When I finally learned to embrace the plants that are native to our region, it truly was like a huge, burdensome load had been lifted. My plants began to survive and thrive. They took a licking and kept on kicking. They took the abuse and continued to produce. I think you get the picture here. As soon as my way of thinking changed, and my plant selection changed, my rate of success changed too. I didn’t have to worry so much about having a green thumb; I just needed a native thumb!


( A little selection from our native beds at Rainbow Gardens.)

Before I really started doing research, I had a preconceived notion about native plant varieties. I complained, without really knowing, that native plants were twiggy, spindly, pokey, colorless and dull. One drive through the Hill Country in springtime made me eat my words of complaint. Brilliant Bluebonnets matted the highway medians, Indian Paintbrush blazed through ditches, and the perfect pink Primrose created soft backdrops everywhere I looked. It turns out that there are more than just the wildflowers to enjoy! There is a huge variety of sizes, shapes, and colors in the native plants you can choose from. One of my absolute favorite landscape plants is the red yucca, and many will agree. The deep coral of the flowers it produces are a real treat when they bloom. Salvia Greggii comes in hues of red, coral, pink, white, and lavender. Regular pruning will keep it dense and compact with continuous flowers. Cenzio (Texas Sage) will burst into bright lavender blooms after periods of rainfall, Blackfoot Daisies will pepper your landscape with snowy-white petals, and the blooms of certain varieties of lantana can make your flowerbeds look like a confetti party happened.


(A few Blackfoot Daisies can quickly fill in to give you a nice cheerful spread.)


(Salvia Greggii is truly on e of the hardiest natives for spring through fall color. Pruning keeps it full, compact, and bursting with flowers.)

Incorporating more native plants into our landscapes helps to reinstate our commercially influenced environment back its natural roots. More native plants encourage our native birds and wildlife to return and forage for food and shelter. Many are aware of the plight of the Monarch butterflies and their depleting source of nectar and host plants. We are on a mission every season, every year, to bring in more varieties of native milkweeds to offer them nourishment when they cross our direct path during their migration. We want to make sure they have plenty of options to lay their eggs, but it’s not just the Monarchs that need help. There are a ton of other pollinators and wildlife that need our assistance too. By offering up a bevy of Texas native plants in all shapes, sizes, and colors, we are doing our part to preserve the natural diversity of our state and country.


(Milkweed is key to our Monarchs, but there are many other species that will enjoy the nectar too!)

Why else choose native plants? Because they are also low maintenance! Whoopee! Who in Texas would not appreciate a low maintenance plant? Native plants can adapt to whatever extremes our weather throws at them. Even if they catch a little frost, they will bounce right back the next season with little tending to. They aren’t overly fussy about the soil they are plopped in, and once they’ve been in there and had time to get established they need very little supplemental water. A little bit of fertilizer to get them started and then for the most part, you’ll maybe prune it a little to keep it shaped to your liking, and that’s about it. This is starting to sound really good right about now isn’t it? All of these great low maintenance qualities result in something else that is pretty amazing too. Saving you money! Less money spent on replacing plants that just can’t hack our climate and less money spent on gallons of water wasted on thirsty non-native plants means more money in your pockets. Now we’re talkin’!


(A native bed at Rainbow Gardens getting ready to put on a bloomin’ display!)

If you haven’t already, I urge you to consider incorporating more native plants into your landscape. I think you will be amazed at your options. You’ll get to spend more time actually enjoying your plants rather than “taking care” of them, and you’ll enjoy watching the wildlife flock to your gardens just as much as the wildlife will be enjoying the natural habitats you have brought in for them. I’m going to leave you with those thoughts and a list of a few of my favorites (other than the ones mentioned above) that I hope may become yours as well.


(Goldenball leadtree….isn’t this the coolest?)


-Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis) – orchid-like clusters of flowers May-June, 10-25 ft, deciduous

-Goldenball leadtree (Leucaena retusa) – little, funky and fuzzy, yellow flower balls April-October, 15-25 ft., deciduous

-Prairie Flameleaf Sumac (Rhus lanceolata) – spring white blossoms, fall gorgeous red color, 10-30 ft. deciduous


(American Beautyberry….oh my, I just can’t stand it, so gorgeous!)


-Flame Anisacanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii) – Tubular orange flowers April – December, sun/part shade, hummingbird attractor, Crimson Patch butterfly host/nectar plant, 3-5 ft.

-American Beautyberry (Callicarpa Americana) – The most gorgeous clusters of purple/magenta berries in clumps all up and down each branch from August-November, 3-6 ft., adaptable to full shade or full sun.

-Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus drummondii) – Another adaptable to full sun or full shade, 2-6 ft. brilliant red flowers shaped like little fez hats bloom spring through fall.


(Milkweed, all varieities, what can I say? Plant more!)


-Butterfly Weed (Asclepias tuberosa) – Blooms clusters of orange/red flowers spring through fall, 1-3 ft. full sun/partial shade.

-Winecup (Callirhoe involucrata) – Purple/magenta flowers spring through summer, 1ft. high, 3 ft. wide, full sun/partial shade.

Lemon Mint/Horse Mint (Monarda citriodora) – Flowers pink/purple spikes in summertime, 1-2 ft. tall, full sun/partial shade.