Lisa's Landscape & Design

Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time

Top 25 Flowering Sun Plants for Central Texas

If you’ve been in Central Texas from June to September, you already know it’s hot as hell here. it can be very challenging if your yard is full sun, but the good news is that there are a lot of plants that can take the heat and still show off.

One you might not be familiar with is the Mexican Beauty Berry. While many are familiar with its shade loving cousin the “American Beauty Berry’, the Mexican BB is a sun loving beast. Super low water, with small pink spring flowers followed by large clusters of deep purple berries that are loved by people and birds. Edible and medicinal.

Mexican Beauty Berry

Lantana are very popular for their deer resistance and low water needs. A true super star in the Texas heat that come in a variety of colors and sizes worth trying. 

Gold Lantana

Salvia Greggi is a staple in the Central Texas landscape for good reason, it’s tough as nails. In a variety of colors from pink, red, coral, white, magenta and bi color, there’s a lot to choose from. Low water and deer resistant, it’s a safe bet for any sun garden. 3’ x 3’, evergreen and likes an occasional hard prune to encourage more flowers.

Salvia Greggi

Mexican Bush Sage is a semi-evergreen bee bush. With velvety flower spike’s and silver sage leaves, it’s a beautiful plant as a specimen or hedgerow. 4’ x 4’, super low water and low maintenance.

Mexican Bush Sage

Texas Sotol is a funky, silver leaved plant that produce giant flower spikes with little to no effort. Super drought tolerant, deer resistant and evergreen. Reaching 4 x 4’ minimum, it needs some room and it’s the worth the space. 

The Gopher Plant (euphorbia) is a low mounding plant that produces bright yellow flowers all summer long. Evergreen and deer resistant, growing to 2 x 2’ ish. It’s an easy care sun plant that’s happy doing its own thing. 

Gopher Plant, Euphorbia lathyris

Skyflower Duranta , (golden dewdrop) is a 6 x 6’ cascading plant with heels of flowers that become yellow berries late summer. Low water and minimal maintenance requiring a cut back after the winter. 

Skyflower Duranta

Pride of Barbados is one of my all time favorites for the xeriscape garden. It takes the sun as a personal challenge and blooms a beautiful fireworks display of orange, yellow and red all summer long. Super drought tolerant, deer resistant and xeriscape worthy. At 6’ x 6’ it’s a must have for the full sun garden.

Pride of Barbados-super drought tolerant. Full sun.

Another heat seeker is the Yellow Bells Esperanza. At 6’ and up, this sun yellow beauty is a stunning low water plant that welcomes the Texas heat and says, “please sir, can I have some more”!

Yellow Bells Esperanza

Society Garlic is the plant that keeps on keepin on from hot to cold. Full to part sun, low water and cold hardy. This grassy plant with its Puce colored flowers is a great specimen or border plant that’s low water and semi-evergreen as well as deer resistant.

Society Garlic

Tropical Saliva is a hummingbird feeder on steroids. At 2’ x 2’ it is a low flowering plant that reseeds readily and makes itself at home with minimal maintenance and low water. 

Tropical Sage

Rock Rose Pavonia looks fragile with its small hibiscus flowers that open and close from sun to dusk, but don’t be fooled, she’s a beast in the heat. Varying from 2.5’-3’ on average, it’s a repeat bloomer worth trying in full to part sun. 

Rock Rose Pavonia

Grey Globe Mallow is another sun loving plant with unique features and interesting texture. From its silvery leaves to the apricot flowers, it’s a fun, evergreen plant in any xeriscape garden. Super drought tolerant averaging 3’ x 3’-5’, this beauty is both medicinal and low maintenance. Perfect for zones 4-9, look for it and give it a try. 

Global mallow

Mexican Mint Merigold is as delicious as it is hardy in full sun. Typically ranging from 2.5’ ish it’s an edible, perennial plant that flowers from late summer to winter. 

Mexican Mint Merigold

Mystic spires is a great choice for a low mounting salvia. 2 x 2’ish with blue flower spikes all summer. This low water deciduous perennial is a sun loving plant that just makes you smile. Great as a border plant or sprinkled in the low water landscape.

Mystic Sage

Texas Sage is a flowering bush that can really take the heat. Often seen on commercial properties, it’s well known for it’s beautiful flowers and silvery foliage. Known as the barometer plant for blooming before a rain, it’s often more accurate than the weather man. Prefers not to be trimmed, reaching 6’ x 6’ ish. 

Texas Sage

Texas Betony is a coral-red mounding plant that is also a hummingbird attraction. Evergreen and deer resistant, this profuse bloomer loves a hot spot. 2’x 2’ish, it’s worth a try in a xeriscape garden. 

Texas Betony

Golden showers Thryallis is a shrub you should see everywhere but you don’t. A butterfly magnet with tons of small yellow flowers all summer long. Semi-evergreen in most areas, it’s deer resistant and very low maintenance. It needs some space at 5 x 5’ and it’s leaves provide showy fall color.

Thryallis Golden Showers

You probably don’t think of roses as a low maintenance or low water plant for Texas, but you’d be wrong. Cinco De Mayo Rose is a heat loving, sun bathing, non-stop bloomer for hardiness zones 6-10. Excellent for a cutting rose, a hedge row or specimen plant. This velvet beauty will impress you all around. It’s served well with a hard prune every 3 years or so and an annual application of compost. 3’ x 3’ at maturity and an abundant bloomer. 

Cinco De Mayo Rose

Bearded Iris is another one of my favorite low maintenance sun plants that aren’t only beautiful, but deer resistant. Known as a cemetery flower for its tenacity without human intervention, it’s about as low maintenance as they come.  

Purple bearded iris

Another rose worth noting is the Peggy Martin climbing rose. She’s a big momma that needs a lot of room and support to be all she can be, but she’s worth the real estate. With pink to white blooms each spring and summer, it is well know for its ability to withstand extremes after being covered by water for months after hurricane Katrina. Low water, low maintenance and a show stopper in the garden. 20’ x 20’ evergreen and delightful.

Peggy Martin Rose

My all time favorite vine for Central Texas is the Evergreen Wisteria. Not to be confused with the invasive Asian variety, this one is a repeat bloomer that’s fragrant and stunning with its facial and magenta flowers and dark green, glossy leaves. Reaching to 20’ it makes a great fence cover or arbor plant. It doesn’t have tendrils so it needs some support.

Evergreen Wisteria

Daylily is a plant that comes in a plethora of colors and sizes and I don’t think you an have enough of them. Stella De Oro is a great variety for zone 8, but I encourage you to experiment and see what works best for you. Low water, low maintenance and loves the sun.

Daylily

The last two are a couple of tree that I use often in my landscape designs for good reason. The first is Desert Willow and it easy to see why. With fragrant pinkish-plum flowers and long thin leaves it welcomes the heat and sun and seems to thrive in it. Reaching to 20+ feet with a willowy shape and open branches, it’s a beautiful specimen that breaks the mold. 

Desert Willow tree

Last but certainly not the least is Anacacho Orchid Tree. This small tree is really special because of its funky split leaves and fragrant white flowers. She’s deer resistant, super drought tolerant and grows to about 12’ over time. I’ve seen them round in shape or tall and thin and no matter what shape they take, they’re a welcome addition to the xerophytic landscape.  

Anacacho Orchid Tree

The truth is, I could have kept going! Sun is where the color lives so experiment with some new colors this year and remember to give them plenty of room to grow and show. If you’d like more information on plants for hardiness zone 8 a/b, contact me for an Educational Consultation or Landscape Design.

Now go get your flower garden on,

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design 

“Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

“Why Are My Landscape Plants Dying?”

A query that many are stumbling with is the reason for their landscape failures. In my 20 years of educational Landscape Consultations I’ve seen a great number of reasons why plants, shrubs and trees fail. I’ve compiled my top 10 reasons your landscape is dying.

1) They’re too old! 
Many people don’t realize that a whole host of plants and trees do in fact, have a shelf life. Just like people and animals, plants expire too.

Below is a tree I never recommend because it’s a short lived ecological nightmare. The Bradford Pear, Arizona ash, chinaberry, Tallow, Hackberry and Ligustrum are fast growing trees that live about 20 years and fall apart in every direction. Conclusion, look for hardwood, long life, non invasive trees and plants. Most plants live from 10-20years and native trees can live for 50 to 100’s of years. 

2) They Were Poorly Planted 

When it comes to Central Texas landscapes, technique is everything. Proper planting is crucial for success. A plant strait from the nursery came from idealistic settings to the rock, clay and sandy dirt we have here. The least we can do is give them a good start.

The tree above and below were both buried too deeply and the base of the trees were/are covered in dirt and mulch. This will slowly kill a tree and you can see the damage at the ground level already. This practice damages the bark and creates root girdling.

Research proper planting, timing and watering techniques and use plenty of great compost, raised bed soil and shredded hardwood mulch.

Plants and trees should be planted in a hole twice as big as the container and a bit deeper. The root ball should be about an inch or two above ground level and mulched up to meet it so it all breaks down over time. Remember, “Plant it high or it will die”!

3) Inconsistent or Overwatering 

Have you ever watered a pot and noticed bubbles rising to the top? That’s oxygen being forced out of the soil, and we don’t want that. Water slow and low, allow it to absorb over a short time and dry between waterings. If you’re uncertain if you’re watering accurately, grab a handy soil moisture meter water meter like this one (below) for best results.


The problem is that overwatering and under-watering can look the same. Plants in shade, full sun or in wind will all have different watering needs. Familiarize yourself with your yards over all needs and water as infrequently as you can get away with. Planting only native and adapted plants and trees will help a lot. 

4) Using Chemicals 

Stay away from colored mulches and chemical fertilizers like weed and feed or the blue stuff. Instead, use only local hardwood mulch, tons of rich, dark compost and organic fertilizers like liquid compost, liquid molasses, liquid seaweed. Also look for organic products like Garrett Juice, Ladybug Products, or Medina Hasta Gro, to name a few. 
Chemicals are not only harmful to the planet, animals, and people, but it’s been proven to be ineffective and more costly all around. 

5) You’re Making the Wrong Plant Selections 

In this case it’s pretty obvious they chose the wrong plant for the job. Placing a tree or plant in a space that requires unnatural shaping or damage from structures or passers by, only subjects it to potential injury or worse. 

If you have an enormous plant so close to the sidewalk to hide your utility boxes, be prepared for a life of maintenance. This is barely enough room for one person, not to mention the limited visibility when leaving your driveway.

Moral to the garden story, choose the right plant for the right space and you will both be happier. 

6) You May Have the Right Plant in the Wrong Sunlight. 

The garden above is deep shade. If you’re buying native sun plants for a low light garden, you’re never going to be successful. The same is true for placing shade loving plants in too much sun. You’ll find you’ll need to water more, have pest issues and a very unpleasant outcome.

7) Regularly Check for Diseases and Pests

Above is an obvious case of fungal issue and below is a festival of scale, mealy bugs and aphids. Catching problems early means you can treat organically in most cases. 


8) The climate is changing
 

Like it or not, weather is getting more extreme. Our plants in Central Texas now have to survive temps from 10° to 110°. This is a lot to ask from a plant and it’s limiting what will be considered perennial going forward. 

Remember that plants and trees planted directly in rock will be up to 20 degrees hotter than the normal soil temps. Always be mindful to leave a mulch ring around plants to better manage evaporation and root/bark damage.

9) Your Soil Needs Amending

Poor soil quality, Lisa’s landscape, Austin

The one thing you must do is compost, compost, compost! It’s really that simple. Compost all of your beds, trees and lawn to the depth of 1/4 inch and soft rake it in. Every time it rains your feeding the soil and the plant which is a win, win. 

10) Poor trimming techniques

Doubling back to poor placement, poor trimming can be a death sentence to some plants and trees and at the very least, in the case of this tree, the structural integrity is compromised. You can also lose flowering cycles and ultimately the natural shape of the plant you desired to have in the first place. Enlist an educated consultant like me to teach you proper maintenance and trimming techniques so you have better success over all. 

So, now that you have a general direction on what to look for and where to begin, you can do your homework on your specific plants and solutions. However, if you find that some plants are more trouble than they’re worth after applying your knowledge, it may be time for a new selection.

If you would like a more detail from a knowledgeable, educated Landscape Consultant to help you with your landscape woes, contact me at lisalapaso@gmail. If you find you need a bigger picture, a low water Landscape Design may be a good fit for anyone seeking a low maintenance landscape.

Here are some examples of my work:

Blue Flowers for the Central Texas Landscape

I am a fan of blue because it is a calming, peaceful color. Additionally, I have two boys on the Autism spectrum, one who is Aspergers and the other that is somewhere on the spectrum of “awesometisticness”. We celebrate our uniqueness by “lighting it up blue” every April and by planting a new blue flower or seeds like Morning Glories and Balloon Flowers. 
With such few plants that are truly blue, these are some great ones to consider for Central Texas.

Balloon Flower

Ballon Flowers are special to me because my Grandpa LaPaso loved them. During one of my last visits with him he passed on some seeds and every year when it returns I know he’s smiling at me. This plant is best suited for a pot in Central Texas where you can control the moisture and does well in morning sun. Hardy in zone 7 it can take some cold and needs a little more water but not a water hog.

A no brainer in Central Texas is the state flower, the Texas Bluebonnet. While it’s an annual, only blooming in early to late spring, it is well worth the space. This plant must go to seed for new blooms next spring. This means it is very important to let the seeds dry and fall off naturally to allow a future bloom, or you can save the dried seeds and plant the following fall. Bluebonnet’s need full sun and grow up to 2’.

Blue Plumbago

Blue Plumbago

Blue plumbago is a beautiful plant that I love to use in both sun and part shade. They can be quite large even growing up to 3 feet tall and wide. I am in love with their delicate leaf structure and bright green color that add to the interest of any landscape. They are low water and very adaptable in most conditions and require minimal maintenance. A deciduous perennial that is cold hardly and deer resistant. A great choice from hardiness zones 8-11.

Black and Blue Sage

Black and Blue Salvia

Black and Blue Salvia is a shade to part sun plant that ranges from dark blue to almost black in color. Typically reaching 2 x 2’ tall and wide, it is a prolific bloomer and spreader in the landscape. Deer resistant as a true sage family member is, and super low water and minimal maintenance for hardiness zones 7-10.

Blue Rambler Rose

The Blue Rambler Rose is a low maintenance climbing rose that ranges in color from mauve to blue as it blooms and fades. Very low maintenance and low water once established, reaching up to 12’ to 15’. As an exception to most roses that require full sun, this beauty can thrive in a part sun space making it very adaptable. Primarily evergreen in hardiness zones 5-9. 

Skyflower Duranta, Golden Dewdrop

Skyflower Duranta is a stunning bouquet of deep blue to purple flowers that cascade from the stem like grapes on a vine. Eventually producing yellow berries in late summer, it’s a great addition to any full to part sun landscape. For hardiness zone 8/b (deciduous) to 11. 

Deep Blue, Bearded Iris.


Bearded Iris are an excellent xeriscape plant for Central Texas. In shades of blues, purples, pinks, white and yellow, this deer resistant plant is a super low maintenance, low water plant that stays evergreen all year, but blooms each spring. There are some varieties of repeat bloomers, so look for options where available.

Gregg’s Blue Mistflower is an obvious choice for blue flower lovers. Aside from its funky blue flowers that look like something from a Dr Seuss book, they are butterfly magnets. Attractive to Monarch and Queen Butterflies, they are a whimsical plant that stays low and wide. Low water once established and like sun to part shade. 

Indigo Spires and Mystic Sage (above) are two purple/blue flowers everyone should have. Repeat blooms from from spring to fall with tall spikes of striking flower displays. Full sun lovers that attract wildlife, they are worth finding and enjoying even though they’re deciduous in the winter. Indigo Spires reaches 3+ feet tall and wide while it’s little sister the Mystic Spires stays put around 2 x 2.

Spider Wort

Spider Wort

Spider Wort is actually a weed in Central Texas and for that reason can also take over a space if you let it. With bright blue flowers at the end of long temps and narrow leaves, it’s an interesting plant from sun to shade. Super low water and minimal maintenance but can require some management. 

Maynight Salvia

Maynight Salvia is one of my favorite plants to use in designs because it’s incredibly versatile as a border plant or specimen. Sporting deep blue flower spikes from dark green leaves, this compact plant packs a punch in the landscape. 1.5 w x 1’ t, super low water and suitable from sun to part shade, resistant to deer and rabbits. Best for hardiness zones 4-8, semi-evergreen.

Last, but certainly not least, the Blue Agapanthus, or “Lily of the Nile” is a flowering bulb that blooms a couple times in the spring and summer then leaves behind long leaves of bright green that add interesting texture in shade to sun gardens. Deer resistant and low water.

So the best time you’re “feeling blue”, plant some flowers to cheer you up!

Happy Gardening!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

Cinco de Mayo Rose

Rosa “Cinco de Mayo “ shrub rose is a mounding shaped bush that boasts striking mauvy/orange flowers with velvety texture and an almost glow in the dark luminescence. 

Cinco De Mayo Rose, full sun and low maintenance repeat bloomer.

This rose is special because it’s a super low water, disease resistant plant that is perfect for a xeriscape garden. Roses don’t like their leaves watered so infrequent or drip line watering is ideal for this rock star shrub.

Cinco De Mayo Rose, Lisa LaPaso

Lightly fragrant, with deep green foliage and newly red leaves and stems. A floribunda rose that produces literal bouquets of flowers that make excellent cut arrangements.

Cinco de Mayo rose

The best place for this garden jewel is in well composted soil with plenty of room to grow to 3 x 3’. It thrives in sun to part sun conditions.

CInco De Mayo Rose

Cinco de Mayo is beautiful planted in mass, hedgerow or as a specimen. Roses should be planted a little high and covered well with compost and mulch. Provide regular water until established, then occasional water during drought periods . 

It’s easy to see why I love this shrub. We’re fortunate to have a number of easy care, low water roses that do very well in Central Texas. However, deer think they’re delicious so plant accordingly. 

Roses are typically available in late winter or early spring, but keep your eye out for this one. This is an outstanding performer in the low water landscape and I highly recommend it to my clients for low maintenance and maximum impact. 


Always look for Earth Kind, or low water, heirloom and disease resistant roses. Always choose plants for your hardiness zone. Clearly, roses are an excellent way to add color and seasonal interest and a bonus of fresh cut flowers!

If you’d like help finding native or adapted, low water and low maintenance plants and trees for anywhere in Hardiness zone 8a/b, contact me at Lisalapaso@gmail.com. I provide  online Educational Consultation or Landscape Design and in person to a limited Austin area..  

Now go get your rose garden on,

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design 

“ Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

The Best Trees for Central Texas

Austin and surrounding area have no shortage of great trees but we are challenged with a lack of diversity. When more people use a wealth of native and adapted trees that home, feed and sustainably support our local insect and animal population, we’re improving our ecosystem for all.

Mother Tree

Trees improve our quality of life by providing shade and fresh air, they lower our energy costs, water usage (once established) and provide food and flower. With an abundance of blessings, it is each and every one of our responsibilities to plant trees wherever we can. Here are some of my favorites!

Edible Trees:

Kieffer Pear provides hundreds of fruit each year and reaches to 25-30’. Stunning fall color, low water and fire blight resistant. 

Peach Trees

Many in Central Texas are familiar with Fredericksburg peaches, but you might not realize you can also grow your own. With several varieties of peach, apple, pear, plum, persimmon, loquat, fig, pomegranate and pecans. You could have your very own orchard. Fruit trees take no more water than others but they do require training/trimming for best results. Comparatively short lived at 20 years, they can provide many good years of free food!

Fruit trees austin, Wonderful Pomegranate, Keiffer Pear, Anna Apple

In conclusion, fruit trees need to be for your Hardiness Zone, we need to plant them properly and feed them with rich compost and the rewards are bountiful. However, if you already have a yard full of squirrels you could be planting a buffet, so here are some more options…

Fragrant and Flowering Trees:

Many trees native to Central Texas produce fragrant flowers, a variety of berries, fall leaves and seasonal color. Here are some of my favorite, fragrant blooming trees.

Anacacho Orchid Tree

Anacacho Orchid (above) is a small semi evergreen flowering tree that’s extremely fragrant and unique in both its shape and leaf structure. Deer resistant and low water, it’s a beautiful specimen tree that matures to 10 x 8’ or smaller. The Texas Mountain Laurel (below) possesses the same qualities but is evergreen and grows to 25 feet at an extremely slow rate. I don’t recommend this plant for privacy because it is a slow baby, but it’s a beautiful specimen worth waiting for. Both trees do well from full sun to part shade.

Mountain laurel tree

The Mexican or Texas Redbud tree is a medium sized tree that can also be an excellent understory tree. Sporting purple/pink flowers ever spring followed by bright green scalloped leaves all summer and yellow fall color.

Red bud tree

Desert Willow Tree

Above is the “Bubba” Desert Willow which is a full sun, deciduous tree with a true Willow form. With its long narrow leaves and stunning mauve/pink, fragrant blooms, it’s easy to see why this tree should be included in your xeriscape landscape.
Another true love of mine is the Texas Kidneywood or Bee Bush. Another low maintenance tree reaching to 6-8’x12’ and performs well from sun to shade. It’s low water once established (sensing a theme?), deciduous and deer resistant. Flowering in cycles over the summer, this super fragrant tree can be experienced all over your space. 

Kidneywood Tree

Kidneywood Tree

Mexican Plum Tree

On the fun list of funky native Texas trees is Mexican Plum (above), which many notice in late winter/early spring for their white flowers and again in summer when they produce small tart plums that while edible, I don’t find them all that great but the critters love them.

Speaking of funky, below is the Royal Purple Smoke Tree. This shrubby tree is a beautiful specimen tree that takes full sun and blooms wispy puffs of tiny pink flowers that look like smoke raising from the leaves. 10×10-12 at maturity, little to no maintenance.

Goldenball Leadtree (below) is right out of a kids book with its yellow fuzz ball flowers. Both trees are super low water, and deer resistant and have interesting bark or leaf structure that makes them stand out in the landscape. 

Goldenball Leadtree

Mexican Buckeye

Mexican Buckeye (above) is a small flowering tree that thrives in sun to part shade and blooms every spring with roses pink flowers that are followed by funky seed pods and Little Gem Magnolia, or Southern Magnolia (below) is a dwarf specimen that reaches to 20’ tall and 10’ wide instead of the typical “yard eaters” many folks are used to. Requiring little to no maintenance once established, which makes these huge fragrant blooms worth a try. Leaves also make beautiful dried arrangements.  

Little Gem Magnolia 

 

Interesting Bark, Berries, Leaves and Fall Color :

Lacebark Elm is a beautiful tree with elegant bark and interesting leaf structure. Choosing a variety of native and adapted trees is not only more beautiful, but the diversity is crucial to the local fauna whose homes and wild space are shrinking.

Crepe Myrtle, (while not native to Central Texas), are an adapted tree that has beautiful bark and fall color. Always choose Crepes with Native American names. If it doesn’t say “disease resistant” on the label pass it up. 

Possumhaw Holly (covered in berries all winter) and Yaupon Holly Trees like Pride of Houston and Scarlets peak, make beautiful specimen and privacy trees that are evergreen and deer resistant. They’re also very low water and low maintenance. 

Trees with interesting leaves like the Mexican Sycamore (below) create movement and shade. Hardwood trees like Chinquapin Oaks, Monterey Oaks or Burr Oak are great alternatives to the 2.5 live oaks in every yard because they have unique leaves and acorns as well. 

Carolina Buckthorn is a medium sized tree with bright leaves and purple, edible berries in the fall. Growing to 15-25’ this no maintenance tree will be a great way to hide your neighbors or just enhance the view. 

Fall leaves are a seasonal gift that carries the landscape well into winter. Look for varieties of trees that are evergreen, flowering and deciduous for interest all year. 


A mature tree can take up a lot of real estate so plan ahead, keep trees away from sidewalk, drives and rooflines and remember the best time to plant trees in Central Texas Is over the winter months.

Use proper planting and watering techniques. 

 

Make sure newly planted and mature trees are not over buried with mulch, dirt or grass.

This is wrong…

This is right…

If you’re anywhere in the Central Texas or Hardiness zone 8 a/b and would like some help with your landscape contact me for an online educational consultation for even more great plant and tree selections.  

Now go get your tree gardening on!

Lisa LaPaso

Lisa’s Landscape and Design

”Saving the Planet One Yard at a Time”

 

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