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HILL COUNTRY LAWN & GARDEN SHOW: Growing native plants

Purple fall asters add a punch of color to gardens.


Including native Texas plants in our gardens has many benefits. Native plants are adapted to our primarily alkaline soils and tend to grow with minimal use of pesticides and fertilizers. They also have thrived for long periods of time in our harsh temperatures, and many require minimal water.

Native plants are as diverse and beautiful as the Texas Hill Country.

Because native plants are resistant to disease, they provide year-round wildlife habitat and help preserve the balance and beauty of our natural ecosystems. In addition to all their other attributes, they provide us with a sense of place — we live in Texas.

Native plants also require less work on our part. They need minimal or no irrigation once established, minimal or no mowing and no fertilization or pesticides. They save water. Native plants also improve water infiltration and air quality, and all leaves and pruned material can be reused in your landscape because it they are free of herbicides and pesticides.

Blackfoot daisies (bottom) are mixed in with coreopsis (left) and Mexican hat flowers.
Blackfoot daisies (bottom) are mixed in with coreopsis (left) and Mexican hat flowers.

One of our current favorite plants is the blackfoot daisy. It took killing it with kindness and over-watering it a few times before we found a dry spot with well-draining soil that had not been fertilized. This plant does not like to be babied and should be watered only rarely in the hottest part of the summer. It has a very long bloom period, and the low-growing white daisies are very attractive.

In the spring, native wildflowers brighten our gardens. Many wildflowers can be planted in our gardens, and if you let them go to seed, they will bloom every spring. Other great spring bloomers include the native red columbine, the native yellow (Hinckley’s) columbine, the bluebonnet, the wine cup, the coreopsis and the Mexican hat. Coral honeysuckle and crossvine are beautiful spring-blooming vines.

Purple fall asters add a punch of color to gardens.
Purple fall asters add a punch of color to gardens.

There are many native types of salvia in a variety of colors from which to choose. Some of our favorites are mealy cup blue, big red sage and salvia greggii. Tropical sage is an annual pink and red sage that easily reseeds itself. The advantage of planting sages is that they are usually very resistant to deer, and most sages have long blooming periods.

If you want to attract butterflies, plant Gregg’s mistflower. Rock penstemen, lantana, skeleton leaf golden eye, flame acanthus, purple coneflowers, rock rose damianita and many other native plants will fill your garden with flowers all summer long. If you have a dry, well-drained area, plant four nerve daisies and blackfoot daisies for a summer-long show of color.

In the fall, gayfeather, copper canyon daisy and fall aster are a few natives that will fill your garden with an explosion of color. Our favorite fall plant is a small shrub that attracts bees and butterflies in large numbers. White woody boneset is always covered with butterflies. Do not forget to plant native grasses, especially fall-blooming pink gulf muhly and white (big) Lindheimer muhly.

There are natives that proliferate in the shade. Inland sea oats spread freely under our large trees with a little moisture. Turk’s cap and cedar sage thrive in part shade along with pigeonberry and coralberry, which have colorful berries that birds love.

There are beautiful native plants for all areas of your garden. Visit us at the Highland Lakes Native Plant Society booth at the Hill Country Lawn and Garden Show on March 28 at the Burnet Community Center, 401 E. Jackson St. in Burnet. The event is 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Buy plants and see all the fun garden items. Have fun, shop and have lunch.


Robert and Sheryl Yantis are Master Gardeners and Earth-Kind® specialists with the Highland Lakes Master Gardener Association, a part of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service. For more gardening information, visit their website at