By Katie Kuchta
Generations of plants native to Austin have learned to love it’s climate—the blistering heat and blazing sun, long periods of drought with the occasional heavy rains and flooding, even a hard freeze now and then in the winter.
Austin plants are a rather independent bunch. They do fine without fertilizer and are able to thwart the usual diseases and pests without herbicides and pesticides. By choosing native plants not only do you save time, energy, and money– you are saving our precious environment.
Before deciding on which native plants will work best for you and your lawn, start with getting to know your soil– and there are a variety of types in Austin that you can decipher from based on the way you maintain your lawn. As LawnStarter states, “Austin receives on average 32.15 inches of rain which is over 10% below the Texas average of 36.04 inches of rain.” Making it a point for you to consider plants based on drought tolerance.
Texas alone frequents droughts, making it worth your wild to landscape with easy to upkeep plants. Here are four of our favorite plants that are low-maintenance for Austinites.
Texas Mountain Laurel
The Texas Mountain Laurel is a shrub with multiple trunks or a small tree. It is one of the few evergreens that bloom flowers. Purple flowers bloom three to seven inches long cascade in clusters from the tree for a few weeks during March-April and fill the air with their signature fragrance of grape soda! The tree’s second act is the vibrant display of its four-inch pods that contain bright red seeds. Don’t let the beauty of the seeds fool you. They are highly poisonous and hallucinogenic.
Plant the Mountain Laurel early in the fall in sunny to partially shaded areas. They grow slowly and have the potential to reach up to 30 feet high and 12 feet wide.
Esperanza is a highly ornamental perennial also known as yellow bells. The trumpet-shaped flowers, two to three inches long, are a striking golden-yellow beautifully enhanced by shiny, olive-green, lance-shaped leaves. You can enjoy the flowers all the way from spring through fall. There was a time when beer was made from the plant’s roots. Something to think about for the hobby home brewers.
Plant the esperanza in early spring or fall in a spot where it will get the full sun and have plenty of room to spread—from four to six feet. Practice proper perennial maintenance by cutting it back to the ground every year.
This perennial does really well in both sun or shade and in any type of soil, even poor soil. It thrives in anything that Mother Nature throws at it: heat, heavy winds, drought. Water it the first season, and it’ll be fine for the rest of its life. Its fragrant pink flowers bloom from June into the fall and attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
There is one thing they don’t like—heavy pruning. You should remove old branches at their bases and nip off the flowers when they fade to preserve the buds. This also helps to encourage further growth.
Plant in early spring or fall, this plant can make for a beautiful hedgerow.
Inland Sea Oats
Ornamental grasses will add a new dimension to your landscape with their shape, texture, and color. The perennial sea oats do not produce blossoms, but they create gracefully swaying arches of blue-green basal leaves in early spring; vivid green in May with translucent green seed pods; lovely ivory seeds in the midst of summer; and sometimes golden-yellow leaves in the fall. The seed stalks make for beautiful additions to flower arrangements.
Plant in early spring or fall in partial sun or shade. Sea oats grow as tall as four feet and can spread as wide as six feet. It reseeds easily and, in many cases, expands aggressively. February is the best time to cut it back to the basal rosette.
Low-maintenance plants, of all types, are a great way to add volume to your landscaping without the added hassle. So let your garden grow and be bountiful with plants that love to live in your yard and in Austin!
Katie Kuchta is a gardening guru, outdoor living expert, and self proclaimed foodie. She can often be found cooking in the kitchen or on the hunt for the best tacos, follow her on Instagram @atxtacoqueen