West Texas has the Lone Star State's lowest population density and highest elevations--less than 10 people per square mile over most of it, and Guadalupe Peak at more than 8,700 feet. All that open space means plenty of room for native blooming plants, many of which fill the landscape with summer color and fragrance. Some of the same plants transition well to West Texas landscapes, providing gardeners with months of low-water and easy-care garden beauty.
Whitethorn acacia (Acacia constricta) is a small--a 9-to-15-foot pea family tree native to the dry slopes and washes of the West Texas desert. Its multiple trunks have thin, crooked branches with segmented green leaves that drop off during prolonged drought. The branches' purple winter color provides additional garden interest. From May to August, whitethorn acacia blooms with fragrant, yellow-orange spherical flowers. Bees and butterflies feed on their nectar. Narrow, 2-inch red seedpods follow the blooms. Older branches on some of these trees have sharp spines. Plant drought-resistant whitethorn acacia in full sun and dry, sandy, sandy loam or rocky soil, says the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center (LBJWC).
Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa), the milkweed family perennial, thrives throughout most of Texas. Its deep roots love the dry soils of West Texas' prairies and canyons, where it reaches up to 2 feet high. From May to September, butterfly weed plants bear dense flat clusters of brilliant orange blooms above their deep-green, lance-shaped foliage, according to the LBJWC. The fragrant, nectar-rich flowers attract butterflies--including monarchs--and hummingbirds. The plants also draw aphids. Remove the pests with a high-pressure blast of water.
Plant butterfly weed in a permanent location with full sun to part shade and dry, well-drained soil. While it prefers sand, it also grows in clay and loam. Poor drainage often results in crown rot with these plants. Note that ingesting its leaves or sap may be toxic.
Firecracker bush (Bouvardia ternifolia) brings brilliant red color to West Texas gardens from May until October. At 2 to 4 feet tall, this densely branched shrub has glossy, deep green leaves and loose, 4-inch clusters of tubular, vivid scarlet 2-inch blooms. Their color and nectar make them hummingbird magnets. This shrub grows wild in the dry soil of West Texas' trans-Pecos rimrock, according to the LBJWC. Plant it in partial shade and dry, rocky soil. It adapts to a wide soil range, from sand to clay. Its ornamental long-lasting blooms make firecracker bushes a good choice for perennial gardens and borders. Removing its spent blooms will keep the shrub tidy.