Early fall is the best time for planting trees, shrubs and winter bedding plants in the Rio Grande Valley.
September and October are also the time when we plant spring blooming wildflower seeds to support birds and butterflies.
South Texas has a unique and vital ecosystem supporting an abundant number of species of birds and butterflies. Each of us can enjoy this wildlife bounty with the right plants.
1. Plant native trees that support wildlife.
Cedar Elm is a large, drought tolerant shade tree that provides cover and nesting. Medium large trees include, Anacua with flowers the bees love, fruit the birds enjoy, and lots of cover and nesting sites.
Texas Ebony is another medium size native tree that provides cover, nesting sites and flowers to support pollinators.
Plant Anacua and Ebony away from sidewalks and driveways and remember to plant all trees at least 30 feet from your home to avoid foundation problems. If you have a small lot, plant small trees, or shrubs that can be shaped into small trees.
Small trees include Texas Persimmon with edible fruit and fragrant flowers and Wild Olive with flowers that support butterflies. Vitex is an excellent non-native that provides for butterflies and bees. With more than 1,200 plant species native to our area, it is easy to find suitable plants that are loved by wildlife, look good in the landscape, and are native to south Texas.
2. Addashallowbirdbath. Birds like rough surfaces for bird baths with water not deeper than their legs. Concrete surfaces work well.
3. Buildmulti-layered plantings with taller native shrubs in the center of a bed and shorter plants around the bed. Along a fence, use taller plants next to the fence and shorter plants, of mixed heights, in front. Mulch beds with wood mulch and leave space between plants so birds have room to walk.
4. Utilizenativevineson arbors or a fence. Perhaps the best native vines are our passion vines. They are host plants for butterflies. This means they support the adult butterfly and the caterpillar stage. And, the caterpillars are required food for baby birds. Remember, no spraying pesticides in this yard; allow for the natural cycle of life.
5. Usenativehedgesas screens. For thick screens that reach about 6 to 7 feet tall, plant Berlandier’s Fiddlewood. This native produces clusters of flowers that support small pollinators and beneficial insects, provides nesting and cover for birds, as well as fruit. It can also be trimmed as a small tree.
6. Growameadow. September is the time for planting wildflowers in South Texas, including bluebonnet seeds. Even a small strip, 3 to 4 feet wide by the length of a pathway, will provide valuable food for birds. Be sure to include some native grasses for seed loving birds. Check with local nurserymen for seed. Waugh’s in north McAllen sells a native wildflower mix packaged for flower beds.
No matter how large or small the garden, by including native plants we can support wildlife and bring them closer to our homes.
Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can follow her on facebook at Barbara A Storz.