Texas is a big state incorporating every climate zone from 6 to 11, as well as an arid west and a humid east. This makes landscaping an exercise in choosing plants that can withstand heat, often with drought or water tolerance and in many cases, salt tolerance, as it also contains a considerable quantity of land along the Gulf of Mexico. This diversity of climate allows a broad range of species choices from cactus to palm trees.
Drought-Tolerant Landscape Ideas for the Arid West
This area includes the Northern Plains, inland areas of Southern Texas, Big Bend and the westernmost edge of Texas Hill Country. Rainfall is slight and varies from 16 to about 32 inches annually, making it the driest part of the state. This is an advantage in creating water-saver landscapes. For cool, evergreen shade near house or patio, plant a wide-spreading Texas Live Oak (Quercas fusiformis). As an important food and nest tree for birds and small animals, its flowers also attract butterflies. Sow the landscape in grasses and wildflowers for a never-mow, drought-tolerant and delightful prairie. Little bluestem (Schizachryium scoparium) is an appropriate backdrop for native wildflowers like purple coneflowers (Echinacea purpurea), indian paintbrush (Castillja indivisa), poppy mallows (Callirhoe sps.), Indian blanket (Gaillardia pulchella), blazing star (Liatris sps.) and Texas bluebonnets (Lupinus texensis). Mow paths through the prairie for walking, and put a bench or two at path ends for quiet contemplation of the bees and butterflies that flock to the meadow.
Wet-Tolerant Landscape Ideas for the Humid East
There is no wetter, more humid area in Texas than Piney Woods, which comprises most of eastern Texas and annually receives nearly 90 inches of rain. Cyprus (Taxodium distichum) is a desirable, common tree adapted to this environment. It makes a background for the many understory trees and shrubs that do well in this mostly tropical environment. Cyprus produces fairly heavy shade in summer but is deciduous. It is also extremely tolerant of ground compaction, so it provides an appropriate site for a flagstone patio. Scarlet maple (Acer rubrum) is another moisture-loving, fast-growing tree that works well for patios where shade is desired. Plant native flowering dogwoods (Cornus florida) beneath taller trees for spectacular spring flowers and a fiery red show in the autumn. Allow trumpet vine (Campsis radicans) or yellow jessamine (Gelsemium sempervirens) to trail across the ground and twine through the trees for a jungle effect that is attractive to hummingbirds. Jessamine in particular works well winding round columns, trellises and arbors.
Salt-Tolerant Landscape Ideas for the Seaside
Technically a part of eastern Texas, this subtropical portion of the state requires more salt and wind tolerance in plants than portions not directly connected to the sea. Choose highly salt-tolerant trees, such as salt cedar tamarask (Tamarix spp.), or Washington fan palm (Washingtonia filifera) for vertical interest if you live seaside. Pick moderately salt-tolerant trees like Canary Island date palm (Phoenix canariensis), live oak (Quercas virginianna) or cottonwood (Populus deltoides), which also makes an efficient windbreak, if you are further away. Lawns of seashore paspalum (Paspalum vaginatum) work well with tufts of fountain grass (Pennisetum setaceum) providing ornamental variation in the open landscape. For soil erosion problems on seaside dunes, try the native giant seaoats (Uniola paniculata). Salt-adapted shrub options include Texas wax myrtle (Myrica cerifera).