East Texas may share the Lone Star State with the scorching Chihuahuan Desert and dry, rolling Panhandle Plains, but it's a climatic world away. The region's lower Sabine River Valley is the state's wettest area. East Texas' driest months are July and August; the rest of Texas is driest in winter. East Texas also averages 60 annual thunderstorm days a year. Both moisture-loving and drought-tolerant native flowering plants are reliable performers in East Texas gardens.
Entireleaf Indian Paintbrush
Entire-leaf Indian paintbrush (Castilleja indivisa) is a Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center recommended plant for East Texas. Growing from 6 to 16 inches high, it has 3-to-8-inch flower spikes on multiple stems between March and May. While the flowers are small, they rest in surrounding showy bright-red bracts responsible for the plant's paintbrush-like appearance.
This plant grows in clumps. Its spreading root system intertwines with and feeds from the roots of other plants. Locate it where it won’t threaten other parts of your garden. It likes full sun and dry, acidic soil and tolerates sand, loam or clay. Entire-leaf Indian paintbrush is a good choice for hummingbird and butterfly gardens.
Summer-sweet (Clethra alnifolia), says the Texas Agrilife Extension, is a flowering shrub native to East Texas' shady wetlands. Up to 10 feet high and 6 feet wide, it has glossy dark green leaves that become golden yellow in fall. In summer, sweetly fragrant spires of pink or white flowers grow from its new branch tips. Disease and pest free, it's a good choice for gardens with wet areas where other shrubs fail to thrive. Plant summer-sweet in moist, acid soil and part shade.
Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. Drummondii), is a flowering shrub normally standing 2 to 4 feet tall and wide but occasionally reaching 9 feet high and wide in full sun. It blooms continuously from May to November. Pink, red or white buds emerge on warm days, with tightly closed petals and extended stamens that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Red cherry-like fruits, a food source for birds, follow the flowers.
Plant Turk's Cap in rich, well-drained soil. It's not fussy about soil type, pH or moisture levels. Use it as a tall background planting in full sun, or plant it in shade and keep it cut back for an attractive ground cover. In East Texas it dies back after the first frost. Cut to the ground and protected well with mulch, it will return in the spring.
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