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New season, new water-wise landscape Posted on October 11, 2023

Texas natives landscape (photo and design by Lisa LaPaso)Now that Texas has officially welcomed its first significant cool front of the fall season, it’s time to start thinking about updating our home landscapes to withstand future extreme heat and drought and reduce reliance on water for landscape irrigation.

In other parts of the country, there’s not enough time for plants to get established in autumn before the freezing weather arrives. But in Texas, gardening is one of the perks of having warmer weather later in the year. In fact, Texas celebrates its own Arbor Day in November while other states recognize National Arbor Day in the spring.

After experiencing back-to-back summers of drought and triple-digit temperatures, we can now see what plants survived and, more importantly, what didn’t. We’re on the brink of recovery with many optimistic forecasts about the potential rainfall this winter and next spring, but the best time to consider changes to the landscape is while the grass and plants are still crunchy and the hurt is still fresh.

Water-wise irrigation strategies paired with native and drought-tolerant plants can transform your home landscape so the next time drought impacts Texas and water restrictions are put in place, it will be better prepared to withstand the effects. Water-wise landscaping and xeriscaping are often mistaken for using rocks and cacti only, but there are many Texas natives and adapted plants that can create a beautiful home garden. Wondering where to start? Check out the tips below to learn some easy adjustments to your flowerbeds and lawn this fall, and by next spring and summer, you’ll be glad you did!

  1. Start by identifying which USDA hardiness zone you are located in. Texas is located within several ecoregions, so it’s important to note your zone before considering any plant selections to ensure your time, money, and effort are well spent.
  2. On the heels of drought is a great time to inspect the health of your plants and trees to see what should be replaced, which will allow you to add in more native and adapted plants. Landscapes are more susceptible to pest insects and diseases following a drought, so it’ll also be a good time to diagnose any issues before it gets out of control. 
  3. While you’re spending time outdoors, explore your yard and follow the sunlight pattern to help you with plant selection. Knowing the lighting conditions is key to choosing the right native or adapted plants for your landscape.
  4. Research some plants on the Native Plants of Texas website or the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center website that match the lighting conditions in your yard. Be sure to note the full growth potential of any plants you select to allow plenty of room in your flowerbed.
  5. Armed with the knowledge of your gardening zone, which areas in your landscape need replacement plants, and the lighting conditions of those areas, you’re ready to shop! You can search online to find nearby nurseries that sell Texas natives and adapted plants, and some larger stores now carry selections of Texas natives, too.
  6. Here are some suggestions that work great across most of the state, regardless of gardening zone:
    • Texas mountain laurel
    • Texas sage
    • Esperanza
    • Texas lantana
    • Rock rose
    • Red yucca
    • Big muhly
    • Texas frogfruit
  7. In addition to replacing flowerbed plants around your home, you may also consider reducing or replacing your lawn. Here are some alternatives that require little to no water compared to the typical St. Augustine grass used in many residential landscapes:
    • River rock, crushed granite, or pea gravel in select areas of your landscape can add texture, dimension, and interest while also reducing water use.
    • Texas native grasses, like big and little bluestem, hairy grama, purple three-awn, and tall grama are a few to consider, depending on location and soil type.
    • Texas native groundcover, like creeping thyme, clover, moss, chamomile, ajuga, carpet sedum, and creeping phlox, are a few possibilities.

Visit the TWDB website for more ways to conserve water in and around your home.

This article is posted in Drought / Conservation .