The native section of Victoria Educational Gardens (VEG) is part of the original Phase I. For several years, I have been the chairperson of this area. Gardeners often ask for information about native plants, so I have created a list of six favorites to incorporate in Victoria and surrounding area gardens.

Plants selected for personal reasons

Garden plants become treasured favorites for various reasons. Chosen plants can be a color choice of flower or leaf, an inherited specimen, a precious memory, an aesthetic design or a trendy or impulse buy. They can also be a solution for a garden dilemma, a long-term planting, a successful, easy-to-grow choice, a food source, a supply of fragrance, a floral challenge, a seasonal favorite, a magnet for wildlife or an appropriate planting for our area.

‘Easy-to-grow’ referenced with desires

Several of these reasons can be applied to six plant choices highlighted below. Since each one has been grown in the native plant section at VEG or in my own garden, the “easy-to-grow” weighed more heavily for these finalists. In that phrase, words such a longevity, minimal care, toughness, pest-free or successful could be included.

See native plants at VEG

The following natives have been seen on a trip to VEG at Victoria Regional Airport.

  • Black-eyed Susan

A long season of deep, yellow flowers are found on the perennial black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta.) This short-lived perennial blooms May to September. Flowers stay fresh in a vase for a prolonged time.

The dark-green, mound-like growth thrives in moist soils in full sun. Other qualities, such as winter hardy, disease-free, deer-resistant and butterfly magnet, qualify this plant as undemanding.

This daisy-type plant should be planted toward the front of a bed and be given some space to spread. Propagation is by seed or division of the clump.

  • Mexican skullcap

The Scuttellaria fruitescans is a native of Mexico, but many have extended roots into South Texas. This neat, compact mound of small foliage produces numerous pinkish flowers. The mound can be a foot tall and can sprawl widely. The largest area I have seen of the skullcap covered a 3-foot diameter. A large clumping area reduces weeds.

Skullcap requires minimal care because deer, rabbits, drought, rocky soils and summer heat do not adversely affect its growth. To propagate use stem cuttings or divisions.

  • Four-nerve daisy

The Tetraneuris scaposa is a yellow-blooming daisy variety that sports flowers from March to October. The four veins visible under each petal are the reason that give the common name of “four-nerve daisy.”

Place this daisy in front of a bed because the gray, grass-like leaves form a low tuft. It’s a slow grower. The size reaches to a foot tall and 12 inches in width.

This jewel is a nectar source for bees and butterflies. It isn’t a favorite for foraging deer. Seeds or tip cuttings are ways to spread this daisy to empty areas.

  • Gaura lindheimeri

A great occupant of large empty spaces, mailbox plantings or back drops could be the Gaura lindheimeri. “Whirling butterflies” is the common name because blooms are on 2- to 3-foot shoots. As the wind blows, the movement appears to mimic butterflies. The protracted flowering season also attracts bees. It’s a see-through perennial that is long-lived.

Plant in full sun and with good soil drainage. In colder weather, gaura may die back. In a milder season, gaura can stay evergreen. It has a large taproot. Underground shoots can be divided to form new plants. Propagation is by seeds.

  • Salvia greggii

The Salvia greggii could occupy areas that receive a lot of sun. This salvia is a great xeriscape plant. The VEG salvias have been through 20 years of varied conditions and still thrive.

Light pruning allows the plant to reach 4 feet. Shorter plants are maintained by occasional heavier pruning.

People may like the aromatic scent of the leaves. Butterflies, bees and hummers flock to the blossoms. Red and white flowers are the most common. Some varieties may be found with pink, purple and orange blossoms.

  • Texas betony

The Stachy coccinea will cover an area to 30 inches. Blooms appear from March to October. The numerous spikes of bright, small, red, tubular flowers attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

This fragrant member of the mint family reaches 15 to 18 inches. Moist soils and partial shade are requirements. After a freeze, this Texas-tough plant will regrow requiring no fertilizing, enduring neglect, surviving browsing deer, existing in poor soils and living through times of reduced rain.

Look for Texas-tough treasures

On an initial or next trip to VEG, discover these six “easy-to-grow” Texas treasures in the native plant area. Look for new signage in the gardens.

The Gardeners’ Dirt is written by members of the Victoria County Master Gardener Association, an educational outreach of Texas A&M AgriLife Extension – Victoria County. Mail your questions in care of the Advocate, P.O. Box 1518, Victoria, TX 77901; or vcmga@vicad.com, or comment on this column at VictoriaAdvocate.com.

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