Utilize drought-tolerant plants

April 20, 2013

Part 1 of 2

North Central Texas towns have a lot to learn from San Antonio, Austin and Denver. These cities are advanced in promoting the use of water efficient landscaping.

Since the early 1980s, thousands of residents in these three cities have embraced the principles of xeriscaping.

A term that is often misunderstood, xeriscape simply means dry landscapes. Described previously as “the art of water sensible landscaping,” “appropriate horticulture,” or “water conservation through creative landscaping”, xeriscape is currently defined as “quality landscaping that conserves water and protects the environment.”

No matter how the experts label it, landscapes that are designed to use less water simply make good sense in areas such as Hood County – regions that continue to be affected by drought.

This style of gardening is ultimately more sustainable while also being beautiful and environmentally friendly.

The beauty of any great landscape is its plants. The key to selecting plants for a xeriscape is to match trees, shrubs, flowers and groundcovers with sites that are appropriate to their well being. Considerations include sunlight, soil, drainage and other environmental conditions. For the most part, native or very well adapted species perform best in xeriscapes. Some of the plants suggested for use in North Central Texas xeriscapes include:

CEDAR ELM

This deciduous native tree grows 25’-50’ tall in full sun/part shade. It has an upright form and reliably produces golden foliage in fall. Cedar elm, while well adapted to rocky soils, withstands heavy, poorly drained clay or compacted soil sites. Once established, cedar elm needs irrigation only in very dry conditions.

TEXAS ASH

A deciduous 40’-50’ native, Texas ash grows best in full sun. In fall, it sports yellow-bronze foliage. Considering that it is a relatively fast-growing tree, Texas ash generally has a long life. This ash requires good drainage and has very low water needs. It provides nesting and cover for wildlife. Birds eat its fruit.

BUR OAK

One of the tallest Texas native trees, this oak attains a height of 50’-70’ in excellent conditions. Grow this deciduous beauty in full sun. It requires plenty of space to grow its canopy up to 50’ wide. Bur oaks prefer deep soil and have a moderate growth rate. When mature, these trees produce very large acorns.

MEXICAN BUCKEYE

This lovely multi-trunked shrub thrives in gardens as well as in shallow limestone or caliche soil. It grows 12’-20’ tall and wide. Grow Mexican buckeye in full sun/part shade. A deciduous plant, it produces pretty pink spring flowers.

CREPE MYRTLE

Although this beautiful blooming shrub/short tree is not native, it is extremely well adapted to Texas conditions and has low water needs. Crepe myrtles are available in many forms, from low growing to 25’ tall. Grow these deciduous multi-trunked plants in full sun for best bloom. Cultivars produce red, pink, white or lavender flowers and often have yellow fall foliage. Give these trees a site with good airflow. Remove suckers that arise from the base of plants, but do not severely prune plants.

YAUPON HOLLY

These native evergreen shrubs are available in many sizes (1’-20’ tall). They grow well in most soils including heavy clay. Site yaupon holly in full sun or part shade. Female plants produce red berries in winter, which attract birds. Plants have low to medium water needs. Prune yaupon holly only to lightly shape.

AMERICAN BEAUTYBERRY

In fall, this deciduous native shrub covers itself in purple fruit. It grows to 6’ tall and wide. Plant American beautyberry in part sun for best growth and berry production. It has low water needs, but prefers occasional irrigation in dry, hot summer weather. Its berries are a preferred source of food for native wildlife.

ELAEAGNUS

While not a native, elaeagnus is a shrub that tolerates Texas soils and weather and has very low water requirements. This versatile evergreen grows to a height and spread of 8’. In fall, it produces fragrant white flowers that attract pollinators. Elaeagnus sports attractive olive-grey leaves. Its long suckers require pruning. The shrubs prefer well-drained soil and a full sun to partial shade site.

OTHERS

Many bulbs, herbs, succulents, vines and perennials are easily incorporated into xeriscapes.

Resources: Xeriscape for Central Texas, Xeriscape Gardening, Xeriscape Plant Guide and Xeriscape Handbook

For answers to horticulture questions, call the Texas AgriLife Extension, Hood County at 817-579-3280 and ask to speak to a Master Gardener or visit hoodcountymastergardeners.org.

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Category: Horticulture Archived