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