Thursday, October 18, 2012

Texas Native Plant Week

October 14-20, 2012 is Texas Native Plant Week and I just happen to have a few Texas natives growing in my garden. 

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I try to focus on plants that are native to this immediate area, like the Snow on the Prairie, Euphorbia bicolor, and Mealycup Sage, Salvia farinacea, above. 

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But I also add some variety by including plants native to other parts of the state, like the Pine Muhly, Muhlenbergia dubia, in the foreground. This grass naturally grows in the drier climate of far west Texas. (The Pink Skullcap, Scutellaria suffrutescens, in front of the Pine Muhly, is from Mexico.)

It is good to know what part of the state a native plant grows wild. Just because a plant is native to Texas does not mean it will grow and thrive anywhere in Texas. Texas is a big state and the climate and soil type can vary greatly. A plant that is native to Houston may not survive in El Paso or Plano and vice versa. The North American Plant Atlas on the Biota of North America Program's website is a great resource for determining where a plant grows naturally. And you can get this information down to the county level. I was surprised that almost every native plant I looked up was mapped.

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Sometimes there are microclimates and soil variations on your own property that can mean the difference between a thriving plant and a struggling plant. For example, Pale-Leaf Yucca, Yucca pallida, is native to this area of the Blackland Prairie. The two plants above, were purchased and planted at the same time. The plant on the left is a little lower on a slope than the plant on the right. The plant on the left is smaller and looks yellow coming out of the wet winter months. I dug up the plant on the left last spring because I suspected poor drainage could be the issue. I found several rotted roots so I added more decomposed granite to the soil in hopes of improving the drainage. These plants are only three feet apart, but the condition of the soil makes a significant difference in the health of the plants.

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This is a close up of the thriving plant on the right. The pale blue color is amazing.

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At the lowest end of the front garden, I added a rain garden that holds water for a few hours after a rain. I am still experimenting with native plants that can take short periods of soggy soil and extended periods of dry soil. After almost four years, native plants like Gregg's Mistflower, Conoclinium greggii, False Indigo, Amorpha fruticosa, Gayfeather, Liatris sp., and even Heartleaf Skullcap, Scutellaria ovata, are performing well under these conditions. 

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Skeleton-leaf Goldeneye, Viguiera stenoloba, grows in a patch of sandy fill dirt that somebody placed over the native Blackland clay at some point in the 39 year history of my home.

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There are native plants for every location and condition. It just might take a little research or trial an error to find the right plants. I happen to use both methods.

Why native plants? Watch this short video (not mine) to find out why.

17 comments:

  1. Beautiful native plants and your narrative is so helpful. The two plants almost side by side performing so differently is a great lesson.

    I had not used the North American Plant Atlas before so will have to check into that one.



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    1. Shirley, my primary use for the NAPA site is to see the specific geographic regions that a plant is native, but my link on this post does not take you to the main menu of the site. If you click on the heading at the top of their website near the bald eagle, it will take you to the main page with links to even more useful info.

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  2. Outstanding , Micahel. I love all plants , but the native prairie things are just great and they photograph well too. I didn`t realize it was Native Plant Week, but, coincidentaly , I did do a post today on some wild growing natives. Keep us posted.

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    1. Randy, Texas Native Plant Week is the third week in October. It was signed into law in 2009. I am going over to take a look at your wild natives. I don’t get to see that too often here in the big city.

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  3. Loved the video. It makes want to buy more land...he he. Guess I'll just have to stick with planting milkweed. Garden looks great Mike. Just a side note, I've had better luck with big blue than little blue this year.

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    1. Greggo, it is good to know I am not the only one that had LBS that did not look so good this year. You should see Randy Hyden’s 10-11-12 post. He has some wild LBS that does not get irrigated and looks way better than mine. My plants came from the nursery trade so I am wondering if I have genetically watered down plants that are not as tough.

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  4. Hey Michael, I know I`m always full of questions, but did you start Snow On the Prairie from seed and if so when did you gather? I finally found a Pine Muhly at the LBJ sale last weekend. Only hope I can have as much luck with it as you have.

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    1. Hello again Randy, I started my snow on the prairie from a single transplant that I bought at a plant sale about 3 years ago. You probably know that it is an annual, so you have to let it reseed. I tried a couple of times to collect seed (probably in November) but they usually drop before I get to them. I only have one plant this year and it is a little scrawny. I think I have problems with snow on the prairie in my garden because all the perennials grow faster and shade out the annual seedlings. Also the snow on the prairie produce larger, but fewer, seeds than some other annuals and not as many sprout for me. The pine muhly should do fine for you, but if it does not, I think it is a fair tradeoff since your little bluestem looks so good.

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    2. Thanks for your help and advice , Michael. The bluestem is really putting on a show right now and I`m thinking of posting a video of it swaying in the breeeze. It is the background foundation of one of the sections I`m trying to naturalize.The Snow on the Prairie, I`m sure is a challenge and I`m not even sure it would like this sandy soil I have, it seems to stop about the transition line. But, what the heck, I`ll give it a shot.

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  5. Gorgeous, Michael...your posts about the Muhly grass are what made me lust after it...great video, too :-)

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    1. Scott, the Muhlies are great family of grasses. I am sure you could squeeze a couple into your garden.

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  6. All your pictures were great but I especially loved the Snow-on-the-Paririe. I had one volunteer plant that grew in almost full shade among Inland Sea Oats. It was a HUGE butterfly magnet, particularly for Queens. And there are fields of it growing on the prairies south of I-10 near Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge. You can really see why it's called snow.

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    1. Marilyn, the snow on the prairie photo was one of my favorites too. I have seen a few small butterflies on my plants, but mine mostly attract bees, wasps and pollinating flies. I have a packet of seeds for snow on the mountain that I hope to grow for next year.

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  7. Hey Michael, not to be a pest...how big does Yucca Pallida get...and do you think it'd be ok with 1/2 day of sun? Oh...and to answer your question about the grass growing through that Agastache, it's Molinia 'Cordoba'...just planted a month or so ago...supposed to be an "improved" version of 'Skyracer', which I'm guessing means it will be taller and more upright (not that I don't like the vase-shaped form of 'Skyracer'). I'm not sure how they'd do in very hot, dry conditions...I think they like cooler, wetter conditions...but I could be wrong! BTW...I did plant Muhlenbergia rigens (Deer Grass) this spring...it's gorgeous...but bigger than I thought...a good 5' wide!

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    1. Scott, the yuccas stay short but do pup out, if that is a term. My tallest is about 2 feet tall. References say they will get to 2.5 feet tall and 6 feet with the flower spike. There are also several references that say they will grow in shade but may not bloom. I would give it a shot if you can give it good drainage. Thanks for the info on the grass. I will do some investigating. I do recall you asking about cutting back deer grass. I was looking at some at a nursery yesterday, but decided I prefer my pine muhly. I did get a Bouteloua gracilis 'Blonde Ambition'. I just hope it does not spread like its cousin Bouteloua curtipendula.

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  8. Hi Michael - I really appreciated your teaching of the native plants being more specific to location in the state. Makes a whole lot of sense considering how HUGE Texas is. Thank you for this lesson. Your garden is looking INCREDIBLE ....so so colorful!

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    1. Thanks Heather. Of course, just because a plant is native to another part of the state does not mean that it won't grow in your garden either.

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