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Plants of Merit for Central Texas Gardeners

 Click on active Plant Names to see photos of that plant. Please do not ask about recommended sources.  We just can't keep up with who carries which plant at any given time - plus we do not endorse any plant suppliers.  

 Also, please note that these recommendations are mostly non-native plants that can be grown in central Texas.  We encourage the use of native plants in your landscapes as much as possible.

Highly Recommended/Underutilized Plants .


Magnolia grandiflora 'Little Gem' (a very dwarf southern magnolia) - Leaves and flowers about half the size of the species. Grows to 15'. Solves the space problem in your yard if you love southern magnolias!  Needs some soil acidity if grown in Central Texas.

Trachycarpus fortunei Chinese Windmill Palm) - very formal looking and hardy palm - choice for the Zones 8 and 9 in Texas.  This is one of the finest palms you can grow.  Photo shows a very young plant.  See our other Palm Recommendations

Cercis canadensis 'forest pansy' (a purple leafed redbud tree) This cultivar of the common Eastern Redbud gives you the spring bloom of the Red bud plus colorful purple foliage throughout the summer.    Mexican Redbud which has a very glossy green foliage and thrives in dry soil conditions of Central Texas. 

Bauhinia lunariodies  -  a native and cold hardy variety of the Orchid Tree, known more in the tropics than Texas, but this tree is a little gem with small fragrant white blooms and the traditional Bauhinia lobed shaped leaves.  

Chilopsis linearis -  a native plant to the Hill Country of TX,  this graceful looking small but sprawling tree produces beautiful Thunbergia-like blooms for an extended period in spring into summer.  It is very draught tolerant  and provides light shade only.  

Cercis mexicana -  Mexican Redbud which has a very glossy green foliage and thrives in dry soil conditions of Central Texas.    


Eleagnus Pungens, variegated varieties - xerophytic, colorful, a personal favorite. Variegated varieties grow much slower.

Ilex vomitoria 'pendula' (Weeping yaupon) - a native plant that grows to tree proportions with weeping branches, an eye catcher. Produces abundance of red berries.   Ilex vomitoria 'Will Fleming' (an upright, columnar growing yaupon) - discovered in Hempsted Texas - grows like a telephone pole!  Great for a narrow corner or bed.

Loropetalum chinensis 'Plum Delight' (Chinese Fringe Flower) - attractive purple foliage, hot pink flowers. There are other named cultivars that have similar features - all are worthy! Give this one plenty of growing space.

Magnolia soulangeana (deciduous magnolia) - any cultivar of this plant is worth having. Spring blooms are spectacular but short lived. However, as a companion plant in a woodland setting, this plant will fit right in and can grow to small tree proportion.

Viburnum odoratissimum: a tall growing large shiny leafed viburnum with insignificant fragrant blooms. This is a very formal looking shrub, more upright than spreading.  Actually,  all viburnums that will grow along the Gulf Coast and Central Texas are underutilized plants that should be used more often, e.g. V. tinus, V. suspensum). I am growing a variegated V. Tinus 'Bewley's variegated'.  that is a very attractive and colorful shrub.  Also look at Viburnum Cultivar List  for a reference to other species and cultivars recommended. area.

Sophora secundiflora: Known as Texas Mountain Laurel but not a  laurel at all.  An excellent evergreen plant for xeriphytic conditions, full sun, and alkaline soils, requires good drainage.  Sweet lavender blooms in spring smell like grape juice.  This is an attractive shrub year round - but it can grow to small tree proportions. 

Rosa x "Belinda's Dream":    Black spot resistant, prolific grower, abundance of heavy petaled, fragrant blooms,  this is a proven winner for the warmer coastal climates.   We found ours at the Rose Emporium in Brenham, TX.   "Belinda's Dream"  has been designated a "Texas Superstar" and an  "Earthkind"  plant by Texas A&M due to it's low maintenance requirements.  Registered with the ARS in 1992, it was discovered by Robert Bayse, a Texas A&M mathematician and rose breeder. of 50 years. This  photo shows a day's pickings from an average shrub!!    Also try the "Knockout" roses -  they will knock your socks off!!

Teucrium fruiticans  (Bush Germander):  This silver colored small leafed plant produces lavender/blue blooms and a nice bush form when trimmed regularly.  It remains evergreen in the dry, hot and cold environments in which it is found. 

Punica granatum 'nana':  (Dwarf Pomegranite).  This shrub is deciduous in CT but evergreen in GC,  produces bright orange blooms followed by small pomegranite fruits.  The foliage is finely textured even though the branch texture is stiff.  It thrives in dry condition where many other plants won't grow.

Fejioa sellowiania (Pineapple guava):   Better suited to Zone 9,  this tropical looking woody plant can be trained into tree form, hedged, or just grown as an ornamental shrub.  New growth is silvery pubescent and mature foliage is a greenish-blue leathery texture.  Two ornamental highlights include the exfoliating reddish-brown bark and the very unusually shaving brush-like red and white blooms. The fruit of the plant is very tasty! 

Caesalpinia gilliesii:  A hardy native form of Caesalspinia with very fine textured foliage and clusters of brilliant yellow blooms with red stamens in spring.  This is an excellent plant for dry locations.


Yucca filamentosa 'golden sword', 'old gold', or 'bright edge' ( variegated yuccas) - xerophytic, very colorful yuccas. Good for sunny and dryer places.

Ornamental Grasses Many genera (e.g. Ophiopogon, Miscanthus, Liriope, Mulhenbergia,) and species are available to add interest, color, and bordering effect to your garden. They are xerophytic and very much underutilized in most landscapes.  Image one shows some small varieties,  image two shows Stips tenuissima (Mexican Feather Grass) and image three is Miscanthus sinensis "silver streak".   Textures make ornamental grasses a plus to any landscape.

Aspidistra eliator 'variegata' a boldly variegated aspidistra that will brighten up any densely shaded area.  This plant is very slow growing.

Hesperaloe parviflora:  A native yucca-like plant that bears  brilliant pinkish-red, branched flower stalks in spring.  This plant is excellent for a full sun, drier place or xeriphytic garden.  A yellow flowering form has become available also.

Alpinia zerumbet 'variegata':  Although this plant is covered on the "Gingers" page,  it ranks high on our list of ornamentals and should be used more for color in shaded areas.

Bulbine frutecens:   This vividly green succulent plant produces vivid yellow and orange flower spikes throughout summer, is xerophytic,  tolerates poor  but well drained soils and full sun.   

Daniella tasmanica 'variegata':  Known as Tasmanian flax, this 12' tall ornamental grass-like plant adds bright color to the garden (preferring some shade)

OTHERS (hard to find but worth seeking)

Trachelospermum jasminoides 'variegata' (Variegated Confederate Jasmine) - a vine with attractive foliage when not in bloom. Displays well climbing trees. Tremendous fragrance in bloom.  A new cultivar "Pink Splash" is now becoming available and worth seeking.

Cephalotaxus harringtonia 'fastigiata' or 'prostrata" This yew-like plant can be grown in upright or prostrate forms. are available and do well  if provided good drainage and part to full shade.  

 Yucca aloifolia 'variegata' (a variegated Spanish Bayonet) - adds yellow, cream coloration to a normally green plant. In winter, tints pink as well for tri-color effect.

Podocarpus miacrophyllus 'Pringles dwarf' (Dwarf Japanese Yew) - slow growing, very dwarf, bushy form of podocarpus.  This plant may be a little difficult to find.  A more commonly found plant is Podocarpus macrophylla 'maki'  which is a more compact form of P. macrophylla.  If it can be found, Podocarpus maki 'nana' is another outstanding dwarf variety.


Unusual and Colorful Tropicals for Seasonal Use

These plants add a splash of color or variety to your spring-fall garden but require greenhouse protection in winter. You may wish to try these if looking for something different and eye-catching.

  • Platycerium species (Stag horn Ferns): Many species but all can be mounted on trees, fences, walls, etc. for tropical effect.
  • Pereskia aculeata 'godseffiana variegata": A true member of the cactus family that grows like a vine with leaves. This particular cultivar is brilliantly colored and ideal for a sunny location.
  • Monstera deliciosa: This is a tropical vining plant with large cut leaves that can be used outdoors in warmer seasons in a very shaded location, and as an attractive house plant during winter. There are white and yellow variegated cultivars that add much more color than the species.  See these colorful cultivars.    (Image 1)    (Image 2)
  • Bougainvillea - variegated cvs: Bougainvillea is grown mostly for the brilliant floral show they provide, but when not in bloom, the following variegated cultivars provide a colorful interlude: 'Raspberry Ice'. 'Mardi Gras' a dwarf variety, and 'Vickie' which not only has variegated foliage, the plant produces both pink and white blooms at the same time. Being a vine, Bougainvillea displays well in hanging baskets - which also is convenient for over winter storing. They are temperature sensitive below 50 degrees.   See our Bougainvillea Page.
  • Caesalpinia pulcherrima This tender plant originates from the Caribbean and unlike it's bigger relative, the Royal Poinciana tree, remains a shrub but has finely textured, pinnately compound leaves with large terminal stalks of exotic orange and red blooms. Other species, (C. mexicana and C. gilliesii) have predominantly yellow blooms and don't bloom throughout the summer. Trying to over winter it after die back by protecting the roots from freezing is risky - best to dig and cut it back for over wintering. This is a summer garden treasure which grows in poor soils and tolerates draught.
  • Brugmansia spp known as "Angel Trumpets",  these plants produce dramatic 12" hanging blooms that are fragrant and spectacular.   These are great for tall background floral effect. in a semi-shaded area.  The Angels Trumpets are often misidentified as "Datura".  
  • Murreya paniculata:  known as orange jessamine, this small leaved evergreen plant produces small white citrus fragrant blossoms followed by small ornamental red fruits.
  • Plumeria pudica:  This species plumeria produces abundant white (non-fragrant) blooms throughout the summer - nonstop.  The spoon shaped foliage is also an oddity. 
  • Other recommended tropicals for seasonal color (excluding plumeria, bromeliads, gingers, and orchids that have separate pages on this site):   

Acalypha cultivars (Copper Leaf Plant

Carissa grandiflora (natal plum);

Codiaeum cultivars (Crotons

Duranta repens  (variegated foliage cultivars) 

Calliandra emarginata (Dwarf Powder Puff Bush)

Euphorbia milii cvs. (Crown of Thorns)

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis cultivars  (Hibiscus with variegated foliage);

Bromeliads: (See bromeliad page)

  Remember, these plants all need winter protection!!


Please don't be offended if you should have these in your landscape.  We merely think you can do much better, selection wise.   Many of the plants listed below are used in new home landscapes to create an instant effect and based on their low cost and are oversold at nurseries due to high profit margin.

  • Photinia fraseri - The "Red Tip Photinia does produce dramatic color on new growth but has many reasons not to use it.  It grows rapidly and ultimately into a small tree,  yet is planted like a shrub. It also is subject to a fungal disease (black spotting) and requires considerable pruning maintenance.  Most often,  they are planted too close to foundations and to each other for hedge effect.   This is inexpensive and a widely overused plant with many potential problems for the homeowner.
  • Pittosporum tobira -  The Pittosporum also gets large,  requires much pruning to maintain,  and is subject to being damaged at below freezing temperatures.   It is inexpensive and overused in landscapes.
  • Euonymus japonica - This plant has bold variegated color to offer along with Euonymus scale and other pests,  frequent reversion to solid green,  and short life.   It is an inexpensive plant that is overused in landscapes.  However, E. fortunei does not have the same problems as E. japonica and is ok to use in Gulf Coast area according to horticulturalists at  Moody Gardens.  
  • Ligustrum japonica -  The green or wax leafed ligustrum is a rapid grower,  has a pungent smelling white bloom in spring,  and ultimately grows to small tree proportion but is planted as a shrub.  It is perhaps the most  overused and inexpensive shrubs used in initlal landscapes and if often planted too close to foundations and to each other.  Watch out for wax scale also.
  • Ligustrum (Variegated Privet) -  This colorful small leafed shrub is overused and inexpensive but generally looks very nice in landscapes until it begins to revert to solid green!  This is a problem!
  • Raphiplepis indica (Indian Hawthhorne) -   Although popular for it's spring bloom,  this plant is very often infected with scale, a sooty mold and other diseases.   This plant tend to be overused in southern landscapes, contributing to the spread of these undesirable infestations. 
  • Wisteria sinsensis (Chinese Wisteria) -  Spring blooms are beautiful and fragrant but this vine can grow almost 12" per day and strangle anything nearby.  It is especially invasive and hard to control.
  • Cortaderia selloana (Pampas Grass) -  People who plant this regret it!  Clumps get extremely large and  thick,  blades contain sharp cutting edges, and it takes a stick of dynamite to remove it!  
  • Tropical Look plants that will cause major problems include those that reproduce and spread at rampant rates, reseed prolifically, have dangerous features,  or may be nearly impossible to control or remove.  A representative list of some of these problematic plants follows:

Aquatic Plants which quickly take over a natural pond and smothers other living things. 

Water hyacinth (Eichhornia crassipes) 
Water lettuce – (Pistia stratiotes) 
Water Fern - Giant Salvinia (Salvinia molesta) 
Water spangles - Salvinia (Salvinia minima)


Ornamental Grasses to Avoid:
Variegated giant reed - (Arundo Donax ‘Versicolor’) - spreads quickly, difficult to remove
                                 Pampas Grass - grows large with razor sharp edges, dense clumping root (hard to remove)                                    

          Perennials to Avoid
          Prickly Pear Cactus – (genus Opuntia) – a sticky problem - wait till you have to weed around it!!!  (There are spineless varieties)
          Wild morning glory vine – (Ipomoea purpurea) – covers everything, highly invasive
          Running bamboos – rapid spreaders, difficult to control and remove
          Trailing daisy – (Wedelia trilobata) – quickly takes over any available space
          Four 'O Clocks – (Mirabilis jalapa) – prolific seeder, difficult to remove tubers

  •  Any Landscape Plant Used In Excessive Quantity:   Yes,  with the tremendous variety of exciting plants available,  why overdue any one or few varieties in your landscape.   Be different,  look for unique selections that draw attention to your landscape,  not the "samo samo" that everyone else has.

If you would like more information about growing any of these plants, please return to the Home Page for our E-mail link.

Please do not ask about recommended sources.  We just can't keep up with who carries which plant at any given time - plus we do not endorse any plant suppliers.