Native Texas Shade Plants

Every gardener appreciates a shady spot to relax and enjoy the fruits and flowers of those hours spent working the soil. Shady spots without their own growing plants, however, detract from a garden's appearance. Shady areas vibrant with some of the Texas' native shade-loving plants will enrich the sun-baked gardens of the Lone Star State.


Native to eastern and central Texas, yaupon (Ilex vomitoria) is a member of the holly family. This shrub seldom grows taller than 25 feet, with small glossy dark green leaves and light gray bark splotched with white. Female yaupon trees, says the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, produce bright red berries with pollen from a male. Because of its dense interior twig growth, yaupon makes and effective hedge. Regular pruning will train it as a tree. Yaupon tolerates both sun and full shade, and does well in sand, loam, clay or combination soil. Handling both wet and dry growing conditions, yaupon's low maintenance needs make it a popular garden addition throughout Texas. Its branches are popular holiday decorations, and its berries provide winter sustenance for birds and wildlife.

Fragrant Sumac

Found across Texas, fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica) is a spreading shrub growing between 6 and 12 feet tall. Its young twigs have a velvety texture, and its fragrant, shiny bluish-green leaves turn brilliant shades of orange, yellow and purple in the autumn. Female fragrant sumac trees produce cylindrical clusters of fragrant yellow flowers--without petals--between April and June. Foliage follows the flowers, and the female plants have red berries in the late fall and winter. The shrub looks best planted in groups for masses of autumn color. Fragrant sumac does well in sun or shade, tolerating rocky, sandy, loam or clay soils. Its berries are a winter food source for birds and small animals.

Mountain Sage

Native to the wooded slopes of West Texas' Chisos Mountains, mountain sage (Salvia regla) also thrives in the high plains. Its abundant spikes of brilliant red funnel-shaped flowers have earned it recognition as one of the Chisos' most attractive shrubs. The spikes appear between July and October on 3 to 5-foot stems of fragrant, glossy green heart-shaped leaves. A hummingbird magnet, mountain sage loves shade and the mountain's cold and dry rocky soil but adapts to a variety of growing conditions. Grow mountain shade from fresh seed planted in the spring or from softwood cuttings treated with rooting hormone. Started plants are available at nurseries. This tough shrub resists both pests and diseases. Winter pruning will promote new wood growth and increased flower production.

Keywords: Texas shade plants, shade gardening, wildflower gardens

About this Author

With a Bachelor of Arts in English literature from California State University at Pomona, Judy Wolfe has owned Prose for the Pros, a freelance writing business, since 2006. A former veterinary assistant, paralegal and retail florist, she has a certificate in advanced floral design. "Super Floral Retailer Magazine" published her Valentine's Day design in 2003.