Barbara Storz (Photo by Larry W. Clubb)

South Texas heat can be brutal on plants and protecting our trees, shrubs and garden plants from the heat and drying winds is a challenge during the summer. Choosing the right plants for our landscapes is a first step to having plants that can survive our summers.

Use native plants wherever you can. Several resources are available to identify plants that work well in landscapes, including the native plant guides from the Native Plant Project. These small booklets are available at local nature centers. They focus on plants that will look good in landscapes, rather than identifying every native plant known to the region.

Local nurserymen are another resource for native plants. We also have several well adapted plants from other areas that perform well in south Texas.

Well adapted plants are those that are not native but thrive under our growing conditions. These include the Blue Plumbago, Plumbago auriculata, a native of south Africa.

This plant is practically an heirloom garden plant in south Texas as we have used it for many years. They have no serious pest issues, are drought tolerant, once established, and bloom from spring into fall. They are available in most garden centers in several shades of blue and also in white.

Firebush, Hamelia patens, is a tropical treasure native to Central and South America that performs well in our south Texas heat.

This is a large shrub with clusters of bright red flowers that support hummingbirds, butterflies and numerous small pollinators. It blooms from spring through summer. Protect small plants from cold. If we have a serious freeze, it will come back from the roots. It has no known pests and is drought tolerant, once it is established.

Duranta Erecta, also known as Brazilian Sky Flower, is an erect shrub that grows 12 to 15 feet in height. Duranta produces clusters of purple, purple with white edges, or solid white flowers that are attractive to butterflies. It flowers most of the year in south Texas. This tall shrub is also resistant to pests and makes an excellent hedge, especially for hiding fences.

They are available at most garden centers and are fairly drought tolerant, once established.

All of these shrubs are low maintenance and are readily available in local garden centers. They perform well in our gardens and serve as great foundation plants in our landscapes. Avoid crowding these plants so that they have adequate air movement and be sure to plant them in areas with good drainage.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. Listen to her gardening radio show at 710 KURV Radio every Saturday, 7:00 to 9:00 a.m., or contact her at [email protected]