Lantana

Today let’s talk about a flowering plant that is native to the tropical Americas. The Purple Training Lantana and New Gold Lantana, or Lantana montevidensis and Lantana x ‘New Gold’ respectively, are outstanding examples of the Lantana family. The Purple Training flourishes in USDA Zones 8-10, while the New Gold does best in USDA Zones 10-11. Both of these plants like to be in full to part sun. However, full sun will result in the best blooms!

While these have some visual similarities, they also vary quite a bit. The Purple Trailing is larger in size growing to 1’-2’ tall and 3’-5’ wide. In addition, there are a few varieties that can come in under 3’ in width. The New Gold, on the other hand, grows to 1’-1.5’ tall and 1.5’-2’ tall on average.

When it comes to looks, the Purple Training brings fragrant, coarse-toothed, slightly-hairy, dark green foliage filled with year-round purple blooms. The New Gold has a showy presentation with its yellow blooms from spring through summer in most climates. In frost free regions, it can bloom all year round as well. Both of these variants attract butterflies and are deer tolerant.

And when it comes to maintenance, both are considered very easy to plant and flourish. Once established, the New Gold is heat loving and only requires occasional watering. The Purple Training is considered strong at handling coastal exposure, wind, extreme heat/drought, all soil types and Ph. Overall, it’s clear that both of these are an easy choice for adding color to your outdoors. And if you aren’t a fan of purple or yellow, have no fear. There are about 150 different species of Lantana. Needless to say, these will have you covered no matter what your favorite color may be.

© HDG Landscape Design, 2020

Pride of Barbados

Caesalpinia pulcherrima, more often known as Pride of Barbados (sometimes referred to as Bird of Paradise, although this common name belongs to another plant), is a favorite medium to large, tropical shrub for Texas landscapes.  You can expect this fast-growing plant to reach 4 to 8 feet tall and around 6 feet wide. It can grow in tree form in the tropics, reaching up to 20 feet tall. Caesalpinia pulcherrima can be treated as a perennial in zones 8 to 11 or throughout central and south Texas and needs sun to partial shade in order to bloom correctly. Pride of Barbados has fiery flowers starting in a rich red color at the base and turning bright yellow at the ruffled tips with long, showy red stamens. The flowers bloom from mid-summer to fall and can provide a welcome sight in the hottest days of Texas summers when many other plants look worn out. The foliage is most often deciduous and is a blue green color, contrasting nicely with the yellows and reds of the blooms.

Originally from Mexico and the Caribbean, this plant can provide that colorful, tropical look that many people long for. It does need hot weather to bloom, but if it freezes to the ground in a colder area it will regrow in the spring quite quickly. The flowers are followed by bean-looking pods of seeds that can be several inches long and contain acids that are poisonous, so be careful when using this plant in areas with kids and pets. Another aspect to be aware of is the spiny stems of the Pride of Barbados, and they should not be planted near patios and walkways. It can tolerate drought to an extent, but will bloom much better if watered deep but infrequently during the growing period. Pride of Barbados does self-sow its seeds so be sure to deadhead this plant if you wish to prevent volunteer seedlings from appearing the next season.

Other Cultivars:

Caesalpinia pulcherrima ‘Phoenix’ is a Pride of Barbados variation with solid bright yellow flowers and only hardy in zones 9b to 10a (Corpus Christi and along the gulf).

© HDG Landscape Design, 2020

Coneflower

Echinacea spp. also known as Coneflowers, are a popular and colorful perennial accent for landscapes, gardens, and as cut flowers ranging in height from 24 inches to 4 to 6 feet. Hardy from zone 2 to 10 depending on the variety, they require full sun to partial shade, average watering, and come in a variety of colors. Echinacea spp. bloom in mid-summer to mid-fall and attract bees, butterflies, and birds as well as being unattractive to deer. The most common coneflower for Texas landscapes is the Eastern Purple Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) which is characterized by a medium purple flower with petals that hang down from the seed head.

In the landscape, you may Coneflowers or similar plants in naturalistic designs such as Texas native or English garden style, and in containers. Coneflowers are some of my personal favorite for their simple blooms and natural look in the landscape. They pair well with Artemisia, Rosemary, boulders, Salvia, and grasses.

 

Other Varieties:

Pixie Meadowbrite Coneflower (Echinacea ‘CBG Cone 2’) has a vibrant pink flower with an orange center with petals that hold themselves horizontally. It can be 8-20 inches tall and 2 feet wide with more than 20 flowers on a single plant, and is hardy throughout Texas in zones 4-9.

Echinacea ‘Julia’ is a compact cultivar of Echinacea with bright orange flowers that grow 15-18 inches tall. It is hardy in Texas (zones 6-9) and needs full sun. It is a lovely alternative to the common purples and pinks normally seen in coneflowers.

Echinacea purpurea ‘Double Scoop Cranberry’ is another interesting coneflower that differs in appearance from the standard. It has a pompom like flower with slender petals falling downwards from a double blooming center. It is bright and vibrant in the garden and makes for an excellent cut flower for arrangements and bouquets. It is hardy in all of Texas (zones 4 to 9).

Echinacea hybrida ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ is a variety of coneflower featuring a mixture of colors from yellow to red to purple in a massed planting. It provides a colorful and natural look to any landscape and looks great as a potted plant. It is hardy from zone 4 to 10 and can be grown in most of the continental US.

More Varieties: ‘Magnus’, ‘Razzmatazz’, ‘Merlot’,  ‘Cleopatra’, ‘Passion Fruit’, ‘Butterfly Kisses’,  ‘Evening Glow’ , and ‘Supreme Cantaloupe’

Similar to Echinacea: Coreopsis, Ratibida columnifera or Mexican Hat, Rudbeckia or Black Eyed Susan, wildflower Indian Blanket

 

© HDG Landscape Design, 2020

Celeste Fig

Do you ever want more function in your landscape than just something nice to look at? Don’t worry, you aren’t alone and we have something for you! Say hello to the Celeste Fig tree; Also known as Ficus carica ‘Celeste’. This handy little tree grows up to 7’-10’ tall and wide in USDA plant hardiness zones 6 -9.

The typical fig producing regions have mild winters and hot, dry summers. Fortunately, even with Houston’s humid weather and frequent moisture, it’s a great area for the fig tree to grow with little to no maintenance and watering! The interesting thing about this plant is that it has large, showy leaves which is not typical of plants that are more tolerant of hot, dry environments. So, if you are looking for a bold, large texture in your landscape design, then this may be a great fit.

I have personally grown this variety as well as other fig tree varieties in full sun, part sun, and dapled shade. A majority of my yard has to stand on it’s own two feet without any care or attention from me, and this plant is a perfect fit for my busy lifestyle.

The Celeste is great alternative to the classic Brown Turkey Fig tree produces a beautiful light brown and purple fruit alongside its classic green foliage. Adding to its low maintenance previously mentioned, it is pest/disease resistant and can produce a crop with a single tree. In the Houston area during years that do not have a late spring frost, I have received 2 crops from my trees – one in early summer and one in late summer.

Want to add even more variety? Then let’s quickly talk about what some of the other fig trees can provide. While looking similar, the classic Brown Turkey Fig produces a very sweet tasting fruit while not being as rich as those produced by the Celeste. Its fruit are also slightly larger and darker. The LSU Gold Fig, for the Tiger fans out there, has an attractive light green/yellow crop with a nice sweet fig flavor. The LSU Purple Fig produces a light red fruit with a mild flavor and high sugar content.

I may be a bit biased, but where is my Maroon, White, or Gig ‘Em fig tree? Just kidding. Another option, the Banana Fig, provides a light green to near yellow fruit with banana colored spots when ripe. Even the banana phone didn’t give you these! The last fig we’ll mention is the O’Rourke Fig. It is easily be compared to the Celeste Fig as it is also referred to as the Improved Celeste, but ripens earlier. A great option for those who do not want to wait or wants their fig crops spread out through the season.

No matter what your taste may be, there are countless fig tree varieties that can add versatility to your landscape while enhancing the look.

© HDG Landscape Design, 2019

Mexican Feather Grass

Nassella tenuissima, more often known as Mexican Feather Grass is a common ornamental grass in Texas landscapes and still referred to Stipa tenuissima by some authorities. This perennial grass can reach 24” to 36” in height and 15” to18” in width. Ornamental grasses in general are grown for a texture and interesting foliage. Mexican Feather Grass has a light and airy texture consisting of green foliage with tan to cream plumes. This grass blooms throughout late spring to mid-summer. Hardy throughout most of Texas, Mexican Feather Grass is a great choice for a low to mid-level accent needing full sun and infrequent watering.20160626_172845

Mexican Feather Grass is one of my favorite grasses to use in the landscape because it provides movement as it sways in the breeze. Its graceful stems contrast with broad leaved succulents, bright flowers, and xeriscaping plants, such as Agave, Red Yucca, Lantana, Salvia, and even boulders and river rocks. Mexican Feather Grass works particularly well as a lining plant for pathways because the leaves and plumes fall over the edges of the path to provide a softer transition and immersive feel. It will self-sow freely which may be beneficial if used in large landscapes and meadows or even on slopes for purposes of erosion control. When used in containers and modern design it would be wise to deadhead the plant to control growth.

Maintenance at least once a year is suggested. Removing gray colored old growth is simple and will allow for more air flow between the healthy grass blades. I have found the best way to manage this is to run your fingers through the blades like you are detangling long hair. The dead growth will remove easily, and it will give you an opportunity to restructure the plant if you found it laying too far on one side.

*Warning: This plant doesn’t like soggy, wet soil and roots will rot in these conditions!!

We love to pair this plant with Agave, Soft Leaf Yucca, Gold Star Esperanza, Vitex, Salvia, Texas Sage, and other Texas Superstar Plants.

Other Names: Silky Thread Grass, Mexican Needle Grass

 

© HDG Landscape Design, 2016

Agave

Agave spp. is one of the most spectacular show stopping plants for the southern landscape with the most common species of this genus being Agave americana, also known as Century Plant, due to its long lifespan. The Agave species is most recognized as being used in tequila. Agave can grow to a height of 4 to 6 feet tall and wide and thrive in zones 8 to 11 with full sun and little water. It is hardy in South Texas, most of central Texas, and can be used in the Dallas area, but may be damaged with extended temperatures below 10 degrees Fahrenheit. Agave americana has bold, broad, and thick leaves that range from green, blue-green, silver-blue, and variegated in color. It can live from 10 to 25 years before producing a flower stalk up to 15 feet tall with magnificent yellow blooms in late spring to early summer. As the plant ages the older foliage begins to gracefully arch downward while the younger leaves stay rigid and upright. After it blooms, the Agave dies but soon is replaced by small offshoots that gather around the base.  Small offshoots will begin at the base of the plant long before it will bloom, and they should be removed regularly to allow the primary plan to maintain a gorgeous shape.

20160625_170013Agave should be used with caution in some landscapes and should be handled with care due to its sharp spines on the tips and margins of the leaves. Despite its sharp features, Agave is often utilized as a focal point in residential and commercial landscapes, and it is best paired with soft and colorful textures to provide bold contrast to its broad leaves and silver to green color. It also can be quite interesting as a container plant, but one should be considerate of the potential size of the plant when selecting a container.

 

Other Varieties:

Agave parryi var. truncate or Artichoke Agave is a dense, blue-gray rosette of wide oval shaped leaves that develop in large clumps. It too has sharp spines on the tips of the leaves in a dark brown to black color. It is a waterwise plant and can serve as an interesting mass planting due to its offshoots. It is 2-4 ft wide with flower spikes 15-20 ft tall appearing after 10-15 years.

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Agave ferdinand-regis or Ferdinand Agave is a slow growing, compact succulent forming a rosette of green to blue green leaves tipped with black spines. The leaves of this agave are accented with white marking which give it a more interesting and geometric coloring. It reached 18” tall and wide and is one of the smaller agaves available.

 

*Warning: This plant does not like wet, soggy soil, and roots will rot in this condition.

 

© HDG Landscape Design, 2016