Totally Tenacious and Texas Tough!

By Heidi Sheesley with TreeSearch Farms Inc.

Houston, Texas




Attractive, Low Maintenance, Adaptable, Water Smart Plants

Shade, screening, color, hummingbirds, butterflies, birds


1.       Taxodium mucronatum - Montezuma Cypress - A beautiful fast growing relative of the Bald Cypress.  It has a fuller more spreading habit & is almost evergreen in milder climates. It can hold its foliage into December & leafs out at least a month before the Bald Cypress.  The Montezuma Cypress does not develop “knees”, so mowing underneath is not a problem. It tolerates wet conditions & drought.  Full sun.


2.        Plantanus mexicana - Mexican SycamoreAn outstanding sycamore with better insect & disease resistance & drought tolerance than the American Sycamore.  It’s a long-lived, fast growing shade tree to a height of 80’-100’ tall.  As the young trees mature, the undersides to the large leaves turn a spectacular silver-white giving a stunning display when there’s a breeze.   The foliage on a Mexican Sycamore stays an attractive olive-green normally through December before it starts to defoliate.  The Mexican Sycamore tolerates a wide range of soils, along with being quite drought tolerant & flood tolerant.  Full sun.              


3.       Chionanthus retusus - Chinese Fringe Tree - A fast growing ornamental tree with attractive glossy dark green oval foliage that turns bright yellow in fall.  Puts on an incredible display of fringy white flowers in March.  Looks like a thick white cloud at a distance.  Has wonderful sculptured trunks & by late summer is covered with clusters of attractive dark blue fruit.  Full sun or light shade.  A gorgeous but tough tree!  Good drainage.  25’ x 20’.


  1. Ilex vomitoria - Yaupon - One of the toughest of our native large shrubs or small trees.  Yaupons have small evergreen foliage & the female yaupons are covered with red berries all winter. They can be hedged as shrubs or pruned into wonderful sculptured multi-trunk 18’ trees.  Tough!  Full sun or part shade & will tolerate occasional wet & drought.


5.       Ilex decidua ‘Paco’s’ - ‘Paco’s’ Possumhaw (deciduous yaupon) - A single or multi-trunked small ornamental native tree.  This female selection is absolutely covered with gorgeous red berries all winter.  It practically glows with color during drab winter days!  Tough, drought tolerant & will take periodic wet conditions.  Sun or part shade.  A shelter & food source for birds.


  1. Prunus mexicana - Mexican PlumAn outstanding native spring blooming tree with very fragrant white flowers!  Slowly grows to about 20’ x 20’.  Produces a tasty small plum.  Great for eating, for jellies & jams, & for sharing with the birds!  Butterfly nectar & host plant.  Sun, part shade.  Drought tolerant once established.  Needs to be well drained.


7.       Ungnadia speciosa - Mexican Buckeye - A drought tolerant, sun loving, flowering native tree.  The limbs are covered with pink flowers in March; then the tree produces interesting, ornamental seedpods.  Fall foliage color is a bright yellow.  Mexican Buckeye is normally a multi-trunked 18’ x 18’ tree & prefers full sun & good drainage.  This is an excellent small tree where there will be no irrigation.  Tough, once established.


8.       Parkinsonia aculata - Retama - A flowering native tree to south & west Texas with attractive airy foliage on green limbs.  It’s an outstanding summer bloomer producing a gorgeous canopy of yellow flowers two to three times during the summer.  Requires full sun & good drainage.  Drought tolerant.  Averages 20’x20’


9.       Vitex agnus-castus ‘Montrose Purple’- Montrose Purple Vitex Vitex is a fast growing, colorful, tough little tree that produces 4”-6” panicles of blue flowers at least three times from mid spring through summer.  Montrose Purple is a new selection with slightly larger foliage & magnificent blooms that are 3 times larger & have a richer, dark blue color than the standard Vitex.  A drought tolerant, sun loving small, single or multi-trunked tree averaging 18’ x 18’.  Another outstanding ornamental tree that requires no irrigation once established.  Butterflies!


  1. Ficus carica - FigFigs are easy to grow, drought tolerant, & relatively disease & pest free fruiting trees.  They are a wonderful, fun, delicious, practical way of creating a large, full screen; or, just plant one as a big green accent (along with the sculptured trunks & limbs during the winter).  And the added bonus is the delicious fruit in the summer & fall!  Most fig trees mature anywhere from 12’ x 12’ to 20’ x 20’ & can easily be pruned if absolutely necessary.  Here are three superb fruiting varieties: Celeste Fig - One of the best figs for our area.  Purple-brown skin with pink flesh.  A medium size fruit with excellent flavor.  Closed eye.  Very cold hardy.  LSU Purple Fig - Medium size fruit.  Glossy reddish to dark purple.  White flesh with light strawberry pulp.  Very good mild flavor.  High sugar content.  Closed eye. Very cold hardy.  Banana FigA medium size yellow fig with pale strawberry flesh.  Very sweet & full flavored.  Closed eye.  Good production & good cold tolerance.  One of the very best.  Grown in Seabrook, Texas since the 1880’s.  All figs need good drainage. 


  1. Viburnum obovatum - Walters ViburnumAn outstanding, native, evergreen large shrub with attractive small dark green leaves.  It produces a magnificent display of clusters of white flowers in February-March.  ‘Walters’ Viburnum is tough, easy to grow, & very versatile.  It can be used as a hedge, screen, or small “tree”.  Un-pruned, it forms a very large, full, evenly shaped shrub, but pruned as a hedge (from 3’ tall to 10’ tall) it becomes an incredibly thick, impenetrable wall of green.  ‘Walters’ Viburnum tolerates drought & the occasional flood, tolerates a wide range of soils, & grows in sun or part shade.  It also can be trained as a small 12’ x 10’ ornamental “tree”.  Grows from 6’-12’ tall.  There is also a Compact Walters’ Viburnum.  It’s slower growing & averages 4’– 6’ tall.


  1. Ilex sp. ‘Cherry Bomb’ - Cherry Bomb HollyAt last, a low growing, evergreen holly with smooth, dark green, glossy, non-prickly leaves.  Cherry Bomb is named for the large red berries that hang on the shrub from fall to spring.  Averages 3’-4’ tall x 3’ wide.  Somewhat slow growing.  Sun or part shade & prefers a moist, well-drained soil; yet, it can tolerate drought & occasional floods.  Use in borders, mass plantings, as a single specimen, or in containers.


  1. Itea virginica - Virginia Sweetspire - A native east Texas shrub with arching stems of very fragrant 6” racemes of white flowers in early spring, & gorgeous red & orange foliage color in fall. Grows in sun or shade & can tolerate wet areas.  Slowly colonizes & is a great shrub for use in erosion control.  Averages 4’-6’ tall.  Morning Star’ Sweetspire forms a full, practically evergreen shrub & Little Star’ Sweetspire is a dwarf variety that averages 2’-3’ tall & has spectacular red fall color.


  1. Sabal minor - Palmetto - An outstanding, tough, evergreen, native Texas plant with striking form & texture.  Palmettos form mounds of upright 5’-8’ tall palm fans radiating from a central base.  The fans average 4’-5’ across.  It produces 6’-8’ tall flower stalks with large clusters of creamy-white flowers in spring & summer & later attractive clusters of round black fruit. An unbelievably tough plant!!!  Will grow in sun, shade, wet swampy areas, or dry flatlands.  Use as a specimen or as a screen.


  1. Malpighia glabra - Barbados Cherry A unique & colorful native shrub with pink & white flowers summer & fall,  then producing an abundance of red cherry-like fruit.  Evergreen most winters.  The dwarf variety (Malpighia glabra ‘nana’) makes a 3’-4’ rounded shrub whereas the standard Barbados Cherry forms an upright 7’-9’ plant.  Barbados Cherry is tough, drought tolerant & grows in full sun or part shade.   It’s also an excellent bird food source.


  1. Rosa sp. - Mutabilis Rose - An outstanding China rose that never seems to stop blooming!  A large, full shrub covered with single roses of yellow, orange, rich pink, & crimson.  Practically evergreen in mild winters.  Averages 4’-6’ tall but can get much larger.  Tough!  This rose can easily be used as a colorful hedge or a screen.  Sun.


  1. Rosa sp. - Knockout - A new, absolutely incredible shrub rose with glossy dark green foliage, extremely disease & insect resistant, & is covered with 3” semi-double cherry red flowers almost non-stop!  Forms a lush 3’-4’ shrub.  Beautiful, tough, & easy care.  Sun.  Moist, well drained soil.


  1. Cassia corymbosa - Yellow Senna - A showy, evergreen large shrub or small  tree” that puts on a spectacular display of large round clusters of yellow flowers summer & fall. Grows anywhere from 6’ to 12’ tall.  Tolerates occasional drought & flood conditions. Sun.  Butterflies!


19.    Duranta erectaDuranta or Golden Dew Drops - Duranta forms a large, full, root hardy “shrub” that is covered with tight clusters of blue, white, or purple flowers in heavy cycles late spring thru fall.  It also produces dangling clusters of yellow berries.  A must for any butterfly garden!!!  Prefers full sun but will take light shade.  There’s a dark blue variety called ‘Dark Skies’, a white variety, and a purple variety called ‘Sweet Memory’.  Butterflies!


20.    Tecoma Stans ‘Gold Star’- ‘Gold Star’ Yellow Bells - An outstanding selection of our native Yellow Bells that’s extremely floriferous even as a young plant!  This 4’-6’ perennial-shrub produces a stunning display of 2” bright yellow trumpet-shaped flowers all summer on large terminal panicles.  It blooms late spring into fall in heavy bloom cycles.  Responds well to pruning.  Tough & drought tolerant.  Sun.  Hummingbirds. 


21.    Erythrina herbacea - Coralbean - A hardy, drought tolerant native shrub that bears tall 24”-36” spikes of bright red tubular flowers in summer followed by 8” bean-like pods that split open to expose scarlet-red seed. Spectacular!  Coralbean has small thorns so it makes a great barrier plant where one doesn’t want foot traffic!  It’s very drought tolerant & normally is found in full sun, yet it will also grow in shade & tolerate wet.  Averages 6 ’tall. Hummingbirds!


22.    Muhlenbergia capillaris - Gulf Coast Muhly - A clumping native grass to the Houston & surrounding areas with very fine foliage.  Gulf Coast Muhly is a showstopper in the fall with an absolute cloud of pink flowers!!!  It makes a great border specimen & is spectacular in mass plantings!  It’s also a great grass for coastal gardens.  Averages 2’ tall.  Moist, but well drained.  It’s drought tolerant once established.  Sun.


23.    Muhlenbergia lindheimerii - Lindheimer Muhly - Another wonderful, clumping, drought tolerant native grass with very narrow, upright aqua blue foliage.  In late summer, Lindheimer Muhly produces narrow, elegant flower spikes covered with creamy flowers with a tinge of purple that turn silver-gray at maturity.  Lindheimer Muhly can be used as a single specimen in a perennial border or in mass plantings.  The flowers are stunning in arrangements.  Averages 3’ tall.  It tolerates a wide range of soil conditions & is drought tolerant once established. Needs to be well drained.  Sun.


24.    Muhlenbergia dumosa - Bamboo Muhly - A striking native grass with delicate airy foliage on narrow bamboo-like canes.  The canes grow in graceful, arching clumps 4’-6’ tall. The overall grass has a graceful, light, airy, cloudlike appearance & is stunning in any full sun landscape, whether as a single specimen, in a grouping, or in large decorative containers.  It’s also wonderful in fresh & dried flower arrangements.  Bamboo Muhly does best in well-drained, fertile soil & is very heat & drought tolerant once established.  Full sun.


  1. Panicum virgatum - Switch Grass - An extremely versatile & attractive native clumping grass that tolerates a wide range of soil & climatic conditions.  It has an erect upright form with showy, airy flowers in summer.  It is valued for its upright form, showy flowers, brilliant fall color, & winter silhouette.  Switch Grass tolerates dry to boggy soils as well as blazing sun to light shade.  It is beautiful planted alone or as a mass planting & is great for naturalizing & for attracting wildlife.  3’-4’ tall.Prairie Skyis a beautiful blue variety of Switch Grass & Shenandoahhas red tinted foliage.


2.       Penstemon tenuis - Gulf Coast Penstemon - A native Texas evergreen perennial with 3’ stalks of tubular lavender flowers in spring.  Sun, part shade.  Hummingbirds!  Blooms for 6 to 8 weeks in spring. 


3.       Ruellia brittoniana - Katie Ruellia - A great low growing, tough perennial that takes almost any condition thrown at it!  Low 8”-10” mounds with lance-shaped foliage.  Blooms attractive violet, white, or pink flowers in heavy cycles till the first freeze.  Grows in sun or part shade & will tolerate dry & wet conditions.  Goes dormant in winter.  The plants clump out & they also multiply from seed.  It’s also used for erosion control.


4.       Viola hederacea - Australian Violet - An outstanding evergreen groundcover for shade gardens!  Forms a lush carpet, 1”-2” tall, of bright green foliage & is almost constantly blooming adorable white & blue violet flowers in heavy cycles spring, summer, & fall.  Must have understory conditions & especially afternoon shade.  Also looks great cascading out of containers.  Moist, well drained soil.


5.       Polygonum sp. - Pink Buttons - A beautiful groundcover for shade (or sun if irrigated).  Green-burgundy foliage with pink “button” flowers practically all spring, summer, & fall. Grows about 2”-3” tall.  Goes dormant in winter.


6.       Habranthus robustus ‘Libra’ - Libra Rainlily - An unbelievably prolific repeat blooming rainlily!  Blooms beautiful 2”-3” apple-blossom pink flowers during rainy periods spring, summer, & fall.  Has attractive grass-like foliage 10”-12” tall.  Multiplies from bulb & seed.   Sun or part shade.  Rainlilies are spectacular in mass plantings, wonderful tucked in pockets throughout the garden, and also love showing off in containers.  For a delicate looking plant, these are quite tough.  Will tolerate wet & dry. 


  1. Zephyranthes grandiflora - Pink Rainlily - area.  Multiplies by bulb & by seed.  Moist, well drained soil.  Part shade or full sun.  An absolutely gorgeous rainlily with large, 2” rich pink flowers.  It’s a great repeat bloomer spring, summer, & fall under the proper climatic conditions. It averages 12” tall.  A beautiful naturalizing bulb for the Houston


8.       Zephyranthes candida - White Rainlily - Showy white flowers late summer-fall.  Evergreen grass-like foliage.  Forms beautiful clumps 10” tall.  Light shade or full sun.  Moist, well drained.  A wonderful bulb that slowly multiplies.


9.       Carex phyllocephala - Sparkler Carex - Outstanding!  A gorgeous, attention-getting, evergreen sedge that resembles Forth of July sparklers with whorls of dramatic white & green foliage atop 12”-15” stems.  It’s a clump forming “grass” that’s attractive as one specimen or absolutely spectacular as a mass planting!  Prefers light shade & moist, well drained soil.  Will grow in full sun if in an irrigated bed.  Practically maintenance free!


  1. Russelia equisetiformis - Coral Fountain Plant - Texture!  Color!  A very fine foliaged, lush, perennial shrub that forms a beautiful mound of 3’-4’ slender graceful stems of tubular red-orange flowers all summer & fall!  Sun, part shade.  Hummingbirds!!!     


11.    Justicia brandegeana - Red Shrimp Plant - Native to Mexico, this wonderful hummingbird attractor forms a 3’ mound of soft, apple-green leaves & produces 3”-4” spikes of overlapping plum-red bracts with bright red & cream flowers.  These spikes eventually lengthen to 6”-7” & resemble large red shrimp.  Justicia fulvicoma - Orange Shrimp Plant  produces 3” spikes of overlapping plum-red bracts with bright orange flowers.  Once established, these heirloom varieties of shrimp plants are quite tough considering that, at one time, they had survived years of neglect on old home sites.  They are root hardy, respond well to pruning, & grow in sun or part shade.  Hummingbirds!!!


12.    Lantana sp. - New Gold & Silver Mound Lantana - Two fabulous perennials for any sunny garden!  Tough, low mounding, colorful, & drought tolerant once established.  ‘New Gold’ is a bright golden-yellow & ‘Silver Mound’ is a bright creamy-white & they go beautifully together because they have the exact same growth habit, 24”x 24” mounding plants.  Sun or light shade.  Moist, well drained.  Butterflies!


13.    Lantana montevidensis - Trailing Purple & Trailing White Lantana - Two more wonderful, tough, low growing, colorful lantanas for sunny areas.  These are native to South & Central Texas.  They are more of a trailing form & are useful as a “ground cover”, spilling over edges of retaining walls, containers, flower boxes, or hanging baskets.  The colors are lavender-purple & a pure white.  Sun or light shade.  Moist, well drained.  Butterflies!


14.    Capsicum annuum var. aviculara - Chili Pequin  - This native perennial pepper makes a beautiful addition to the garden.  It is a 2’ – 3’ mounding shrub that is covered with small white flowers & bright red, “bird’s eye” peppers much of the year.  It’s tough once established, prefers full sun & good drainage, & also re-seeds.  They are great for spicing up dishes & birds love the fruit too!


15.    Tulbaghia violacea - Society Garlic - An extremely well adapted evergreen perennial to the Gulf Coast.  It blooms almost continuously from spring to fall, bearing clusters of lilac-violet flowers on plants that grow 12” tall with 18” flower stalks.  Sun, part shade.  Moist, well drained beds normally, but can take bog conditions & can tolerate drought conditions!  Beautiful in mass plantings or combined with other perennials or used in containers.


  1. Pavonia peruviensis - Peruvian Pavonia - An outstanding sun loving, drought tolerant, evergreen mounding perennial that’s constantly blooming 2” light pink flowers with a red eye spring to fall.  Attractive, dark glossy green, small arrow shaped foliage.  Forms a 3’-4’ mound.  Sun.  Responds well to pruning.


17.    Hesperaloe parviflora - Red Yucca - A tough, drought tolerant, evergreen native perennial that produces 4’-6’ stalks of coral-red flowers that bloom profusely for months during the summer. These stalks emerge from clumps of narrow 2’-3’ dark green “leaves”.  Red Yucca is adaptable to a wide range of soils & climates across the state. They grow in sun or light shade & need good drainage.  Hummingbirds!


18.    Anisicanthus wrightii - Flame Acanthus - A tough, native 3’ shrubby perennial covered with bright orange tubular flowers steadily all summer into fall. Sun.  Hummingbirds & Butterflies!  Extremely drought tolerant.


  1. Bulbine flavescens - Yellow Bulbine - A very unique, normally evergreen clump-forming perennial for full sun. Narrow aloevera-type foliage 12” tall.  Forms dense, terminal racemes of small star-shaped yellow flowers on slender 18” stems almost 11 months of the year!  Has been evergreen down to 25 degrees. Sun, part shade.  Good drainage.  Bulbine sp. - Tangerine Bulbine - Identical to the Yellow Bulbine except that the foliage is a little more refined & it produces dense, terminal racemes of gorgeous star-shaped tangerine flowers.  Sun, part shade.  Good drainage.


20.    Cuphea ignea ‘David Verity’ - David Verity Cuphea - A compact & more refined version of the giant cigar plant.  ‘David Verity’ forms a 2’-3’ upright, very full plant with small leaves & is a non-stop, profuse bloomer of 1” tubular orange & yellow flowers from spring through fall.  A wonderful, tough perennial for sun or light shade.  Hummingbirds!


21.    Rudbeckia fulgida ‘Goldsturm’ - Goldsturm Rudbeckia - A compact selection of the native R. fulgida  that blooms in mid summer with masses of golden-yellow, black-eyed daisies.   The lush, dark green foliage forms low clumps when not in bloom & averages 18” tall when in bloom.  This is an exceptional Rudbeckia. Sun.  Butterflies!


  1. Rudbeckia maximaGiant Rudbeckia - A native evergreen perennial with large powder-blue flat, cabbage-like foliage.  R. maxima produces stunning 6’-8’ stalks of 4” yellow flowers sporting 2”-3” brown cones in summer.  This is a long lived plant that slowly multiplies producing beautiful stands of foliage & color.  It survives occasional droughts but also grows in bog conditions.  Sun.  Butterflies!


  1. Rosmarinus sp. ‘Prostrata’ - Prostrate Rosemary - One of those very special herbs that is a must in any sunny landscape.  Prostrate Rosemary is an evergreen cascading shrub that mounds to about 2’ tall and cascades over anything; walls, landscape timbers, rock, out of containers, etc. Use it near walkways where you can enjoy the fragrance of the foliage when brushed up against.  Rosemary is covered with small blue flowers in the winter & early spring.  Drought tolerant.  Full sun or light shade & must have good drainage.  Great for use in cooking.


24.    Wedelia hispida - Zexmania - A native, long-lived, drought tolerant shrubby perennial that forms 18”-24” rounded mounds covered with yellow daisies all spring, summer, & fall.  Sun & good drainage.  Butterflies!


25.    Salvia microphylla ‘Maraschino - Maraschino Salvia - One of the hardiest of the red salvias.  Evergreen mounding growth that is thick and bushy - 30” x 36”.  Attractive small foliage that develops a tinge of burgundy in cool weather.  Magnificent bloomer in heavy cycles spring through fall.  Flowers are bright red.  Responds well to pruning.  Hummingbirds!


  1. Salvia microphylla ‘Oxford Pink’ – Oxford Pink Salvia - A tough, beautiful, & evergreen salvia that forms a full 3’ rounded plant that is almost constantly covered with bright pink tubular flowers spring, summer, & fall (& even through a mild winter).  Drought tolerant once established.  Full sun or light shade.  Moist, well drained soil.  Responds well to pruning.  Hummingbirds!


27.    Salvia madrensis - Big Yellow Sage - A striking fall blooming salvia with incredible texture & spectacular 20”-30” long flower spikes of yellow flowers in the fall.  This is a very long-lived salvia that forms spectacular upright clumps of very architectural 1/2”-1” square stems covered with wonderfully textured foliage.  The flowers are the icing on the cake!  Grows 4’-6’ tall & prefers full sun.  Hummingbirds & Butterflies.


28.    Tagetes lemonii - Copper Canyon Daisy A medium sized, wonderfully textured, aromatic shrubby perennial that explodes with bright golden yellow flowers in the fall & sometimes all through a mild winter into spring.  3’-4’ tall.  Full sun.


29.    Aster oblongifolius - Prairie AsterAn outstanding native Texas fall blooming aster!  Mounds out to 2’x 3’ with tiny gray-green aromatic foliage & is smothered with lavender, yellowed centered daisies all fall.  Full sun or light shade.  An excellent fall nectar plant!  An incredible performer & long lived with good drainage.  Butterflies!


30.    Aster pringelii - Pringel Aster - An extraordinary aster! Forms a 3'x3' absolute cloud of tiny white flowers for months in the fall. A stunning showstopper in any landscape. Tough once established. Sun, light shade. Moist, well drained soil. Butterflies!


31.    Aster carolinianus - Climbing Carolina Aster - A very hardy aster with multiple long, wiry stems that can reach up to 12‘ high.  This deciduous climber (de-foliates in winter–does not freeze down) is an outstanding fall bloomer, covered with lavender-blue “daisies” starting in September.  Grows in full sun or part shade.  Grows well in wet ground & bogs but is also drought tolerant.   It’s a native of SC to FL.  Butterflies!


32.    Heteropteris glabra - Redwing - One tough, non-stop blooming climber or big shrub.  Unique, in that it can be trained as a deciduous climber or a 4’ shrub.  Covered from spring to fall with thousands of small yellow flowers & red winged seed pods.  Easy care!  Sun or part shade.  Drought & wet tolerant once established.


33.    Bignonia capreolata ‘Tangerine Beauty’ - ‘Tangerine Beauty’ Crossvine - A strong, vigorous semi-evergreen to evergreen native vine that produces a spectacular display of bright orange-red trumpet flowers in spring.  Crossvine grows well in full sun or light shade & has little tendrils that cling tightly to walls, fences, trees, & other surfaces.  Will tolerate drought & occasional flooding conditions.  Hummingbirds.