Transform Your Lawn Part 2: Perennial Native Flowers

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Transform Your Lawn with Perennial Native Flowers from Web SourcesWelcome to the second installment of my two-part series on how to buy Houston native plants from web sources. Below you’ll find another fourteen perennial wildflowers that you can purchase online.

After publishing the previous post I learned two new do’s and don’ts that I want to share with you. Number one: Whenever you can, buy from Texas or, better yet, the Houston area. Number two: Avoid cultivars when possible. I’ll tell you why.

Buy from Texas

In my last post I guided you to whatever Internet sources of native plants I could locate, not paying attention to whether a nursery operated from Texas, California, or Vermont. Conservation experts quickly pointed out to me that when it comes to native plants, buying local is best. Take blue sage. According to the Prairie Moon Nursery its native range extends from the Gulf coast in Texas to Nebraska. But these two states differ dramatically in their climatic and soil conditions. Sage that has been growing in Nebraska for centuries may have difficulty coping with the clay soil and humidity of the Houston area. By buying close to home you can avoid problems of adaptability.

Avoid perennial cultivars

Avoid cultivars – plant varieties obtained by selectively breeding native species – if your goal is to provide food for local birds and insects. The Knoxville Botanical Garden explains why:

So what are the issues with using cultivars? One of the most prominent issues is that native cultivars behave differently than the [original] species, causing problems with the local wildlife that relies on the plant. Using our native Echinacea purpurea as an example we can see some of the problems that cultivars possess. There have been dozens of new cultivars released over the past decade and some … are double flowered, making it nearly impossible for a pollinator to get into the nectar rich part of the flower. Also, many of these new cultivars are sterile, meaning they do not produce viable seed, which is bad news for goldfinches and other native birds who love to eat the seed. Native trees and shrubs are often bred to have larger or differently coloured berries which may not be edible to wildlife populations.

Whether or not to use cultivars of native plants is a matter of personal preference, however if your goal is to aid wildlife and decrease environmental impact, then it is probably better to go with seed-grown species of native plants. This provides the greatest genetic diversity and will guarantee that the animals and insects we share this space with have what they need to survive.

Live and learn.

On the positive side, I have found two new nurseries that sell native plants and operate in the Houston metropolitan area.

The Audubon Society

One is the Natives Nursery of the Houston Chapter of the Audubon Society on 440 Wilchester Boulevard. Their mission is to grow and sell native grasses, flowers, shrubs, and trees that support our birds. To find out what plants they have available and when you can make a purchase, contact the nursery manager Flo Hannah fhannah@houstonaudubon.org.

Native Enhancements

Another promising source of native plants is the company Native Enhancements, which is located in Cypress. I learned about it from Susan, a reader of this blog. Here is what she says:

I’d recommend Native Enhancements (nativeenhancements.com) as a source for native plants. You can peruse the web site for ideas, but you will need to call the owner (Eric) directly to actually place an order and confirm availability. I ordered from him recently and found him to be very knowledgeable and helpful. The plants he delivered to me were in excellent condition and much less expensive than some other sources. He delivers for free in the Houston metro area for orders of $50 or more.

Native Enhancements does have a web storefront. In addition to truly local plants they sell ornamentals of foreign origin. When browsing their site it therefore helps to know your natives or ask the nursery staff for assistance. Eric Ruckstuhl, the owner, gave me permission to publish his mobile number for those wishing to place an order or inquire about his offerings. Here it is: (713) 298-3021.


Update June 10, 2016: After publishing this post, I placed an order with Native Enhancements. Based on that experience, here is what I suggest you do, if you, too, want to purchase plants from this company: 1) Determine what plants you want and submit the order through the website. 2) Call Eric on his cell phone and let him know you have placed the order. 3) Eric will read through the order and determine which of the plants you want he has available. He will also tell you of other plants that might interest you. 4) You finalize the order over the phone.


Next, the wildflowers.

Scarlet Sage (salvia coccinea)

Transform Your Lawn with Perennial Native Flowers from Web Sources: Scarlet Sage

Scarlet Sage by Mané Salinas Rodríguez / CC BY-NC

Scarlet Sage is a perennial, two to three feet high, that blooms May to frost and looks especially nice in the fall. It grows in sand, loam, or clay, and tolerates seasonal poor drainage.[1] According to the website Fine Gardening, Scarlet Sage can grow in full sun to partial shade, but in southern climates such as ours it prefers afternoon shade. It is one of those plants that benefit from poor soil conditions. Here’s how Sally and Andy Wasowski, the authors of Native Texas Plants, put it:

In good conditions you will hate it, because it gets big, coarse, and ugly. So use it in those dry, shady areas with poor soil where you can’t get anything else to grow. Water it to get it started, and then leave it on its own unless it looks pitiful … Cut it in half with a line trimmer when it gets taller than you like.[2]

Scarlet Sage is a favorite of hummingbirds and many different butterflies.[3]

For additional images visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

Where can you buy it?

Blue Mistflower (conoclinium coelestinum/formerly eupatorium coelestinum)

Transform Your Lawn with Perennial Native Flowers from Web Sources: Blue Mistflower

Blue Mistflower by Janet Guardiola / CC BY-NC

Blue Mistflower is not to be confused with Gregg’s Mistflower (conoclinium greggii), which is sold in the Houston nursery trade but native to West Texas. Blue Mistflower is a perennial that can grow up to four feet tall and blooms from April to December.[4] It can take sand, loam, or clay and tolerates poor drainage. Plant it in dappled or part shade – if you plant it in full sun, you may need to water it.[5] Butterflies love this plant. [6] So do native bees.[7]

For additional images visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

Where can you buy it?

Blue Sage (salvia azurea)

Transform Your Lawn with Perennial Native Flowers from Web Sources: Blue Sage

Blue Sage by Judith Lopez Sikora / CC BY-NC

I used to believe that salvia azurea was simply the blue version of Scarlet Sage, but that is not the case. In my aesthetics the most important distinguishing mark is that the leaves of Blue Sage are long and thin, making for a sleek look, while those of Scarlet Sage are short and somewhat broad. Blue Sage is a perennial that grows between three and six feet tall.[8] Geyata Ajilvsgi, in Wildflowers of Texas, puts the blooming period between May and November.[9] The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center, on the other hand, says the bloom time lasts from September through November. [10] Blue Sage likes partial shade and dry soil, and it thrives in both sandy loam, clay loam, and clay. [11] Hummingbirds love this plant.[12]

For additional images visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

Where can you buy it?

 

Lyre-leaf Sage (salvia lyrata)

Lyre-leaf Sage is native to Texas east of Forth Worth, and this includes Houston.[13] A perennial one to two feet in height, it blooms between February and May.[14] It grows in sand, loam, and clay, likes both dappled shade, partial shade, and full sun, and tolerates both drought and overwatering. You can cut the stalks down after blooming. [15] Hummingbirds love it.[16]

For additional images visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

Where can you buy it?

 

Prairie Verbena (glandularia bipinnatifida)

Transform Your Lawn with Perennial Native Flowers from Web Sources: Prairie Verbena

Prairie Verbena by Richard Reynolds / CC BY-NC

Prairie Verbena is an annual or short-lived perennial that is four to twelve inches tall and blooms February through July.[16a] It likes well-drained loam and clay and can be planted in partial shade or full sun. The flowers attract butterflies, especially monarchs, gulf fritillaries, and eufala skippers. [16b] It’s a good ground cover.[16c] Instructions from the Native Plant Society on how to plant Prairie Verbena can be found here.

For additional images visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

Where can you buy it?

 

Rose Verbena (glandularia canadensis, formerly verbena canadensis)

Transform Your Lawn with Perennial Native Flowers from Web Sources: Rose Verbena

Rose Verbena by Carlos Velazco / CC BY-NC

Five to ten inches in height and a perennial in our area, Rose Verbena makes a beautiful ground cover.[17] It likes moist but well-drained loam and can take full sun to partial shade.[18] In the summer it becomes thin unless you water it regularly. [19] Its blooming period is February through September. Butterflies enjoy it, but so do rabbits and deer.[20]

For additional images visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

Where can you buy it?

Lanceleaf Tickseed (coreopsis lanceolata)

Transform Your Lawn with Perennial Native Flowers from Web Sources: Lanceleaf Tickseed

Lanceleaf Tickseed by Steven J. Baskauf

Lanceleaf Tickseed, also called Lanceleaf Coreopsis, is an evergreen perennial,[21] up to two feet tall, that can be found growing by the side of the road and in prairies. Sand, loam, and clay are all good soils for this flower, but good drainage is important.[22] It does well in partial shade to full sun and blooms April through June. Mark and Mary Bowen, in Habitat Gardening for Houston and Southeast Texas, recommend that you plant it with companion plants, because it alternates between looking gorgeous and less so. Lanceleaf Tickseed attracts the skipper butterfly.[23]

For additional images visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

Where can you buy it?

Maximilian Sunflower (helianthus maximiliani)

Transform Your Lawn with Perennial Native Flowers from Web Sources: Maximilian Sunflower

Maximilian Sunflower by the Smithsonian Institution / CC BY-NC-SA

This sunflower, a perennial, survives in sand, loam, or clay so long as the drainage is good, and it does well in either partial shade or full sun. It is usually between four and six feet tall and blooms August to October. The Wasowskis rave about it:

It is truly spectacular in the fall. The flowers bloom all at once up a stout stem. Each plant has a mass of stems, and each flower is large, so you might easily have four square feet of gold. Beneath the blooms the stems usually have leaves that died during the hot summer – not a terrific sight, so place this sunflower at the back of your garden. Or, grow it in tallgrasses, which form its natural habitat.[24]

If this is not enough to sway you, know that this flower is a true wildlife attractor. Its nectar provides for butterflies; its seeds feed numerous bird species; and the larvae of the silvery checkerspot and the bordered patch butterfly munch on its leaves.[25]

For additional images visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

Where can you buy it?

Halberdleaf Rosemallow (hibiscus laevis, also hibiscus militaris)

Three to eight feet tall, this perennial can be found in freshwater marshes and shallow waters. Sand, loam, and clay are suitable soils; moisture is necessary, and poor drainage is acceptable.[26] This hibiscus grows both in partial shade and in full sun, blooming May through November.[27] It attracts hummingbirds as well as cloudless sulphurs; and the larvae of the common checkered skipper eat its foliage.[28]

For additional images visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

Where can you buy it?

Spider Lily (hymenocallis liriosme)

Transform Your Lawn with Perennial Native Flowers from Web Sources: Spider Lily

Spider Lily by Susan Elliott / CC BY-NC-SA

When it comes to spider lilies it can be difficult to tell the native from the non-native. Luckily I had access to Margaret Gwenuch, an expert from the Native Plant Society. She informed me that the spider lily commonly sold in the trade is hymenocallis latifolia, a Florida native that blooms in June. The spider lily that’s native to Texas is hymenocallis liriosme, and it blooms – with truly striking flowers – in April. [29] So be sure to get the right kind.

Hymenocallis liriosme is a perennial, grows 1.5 to two feet tall, and has smooth, two feet long leaves. It thrives in sand, loam, or clay. Its natural habitats – stream banks, marshes, or ditches – are high in moisture, hence it tolerates poor drainage. [30] In fact, the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center warns that this plant’s soil must never be allowed to dry out.[31] As far as light requirements are concerned, both dappled shade, partial shade, and full sun are suitable. [32]

For additional images visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

Where can you buy it?

Wild Bergamot (monarda fistulosa)

Transform Your Lawn with Perennial Native Flowers from Web Sources: Wild Bergamot

Wild Bergamot by Barry Breckling / CC BY-NC-SA

Wild Bergamot, a perennial,[33] can grow anywhere between 1.5 and five feet tall. It lives in sand, loam, or clay, and likes moisture with good drainage. Between May and September it produces lavender- or pink-colored blossoms with a mint scent. Wild Bergamot tolerates dappled shade, partial shade, and full sun.[34] It attracts hummingbirds and bees – the Bowens say that Texas beekeepers rely heavily on this flower for their honey production.[35]

For additional images visit the Encyclopedia of Life.

Where can you buy it?

Narrowleaf False Dragonhead (physostegia angustifolia)

Transform Your Lawn with Perennial Native Flowers from Web Sources: Narrowleaf False Dragonhead

Narrowleaf False Dragonhead by Smithsonian Institution / CC BY-NC-SA

Physostegia angustifolia is a perennial that is at home in marshy areas and on stream banks. It therefore tolerates poor drainage. It likes both loam and clay and dappled shade to full sun.[36] A member of the mint family,[37] it grows about four feet tall. According to the Encyclopedia of Life it starts to bloom in June.[38]

For additional images visit the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Where can you buy it?

  • Although this is a Houston native plant, I am unaware of a Texas online source. I therefore send you to Minnesota, where you can purchase physostegia angustifolia from Prairie Moon Nursery.

Gulf Coast Penstemon (penstemon tenuis)

Gulf Coast Penstemon is a beautiful 1.5 feet tall perennial whose flowers look like tiny purple bells. This penstemon can be found in marshes and poorly drained prairies, which means it likes moisture and does well in poorly drained places. It thrives in sand, loam, and clay, and it can take dappled shade, partial shade, or full sun. [39] Its blooming period is March through June,[40] with possibly a second bloom in the fall.[41] It will be sure to draw bees into your garden.[42]

Where can you buy it?

 

Frogfruit (phyla incisa)

This brings me to the last wildflower for the day. It is the inconspicuous Frogfruit, a three to four inch tall evergreen perennial in the verbena family. Its white heads are the size of saltwater pearls, and they are in bloom from May through October.[43] If you are looking for an alternative to St. Augustine grass, consider this ground cover,[44] which spreads vigorously. But do not mow it while it is in bloom – it will not forgive you. [45]

Frogfruit grows in sand, loam, or clay that is well drained or has seasonal poor drainage, and it likes both shade, dappled shade, partial shade and full sun. If you want it to be thick and dense, you may need to water it during drier periods.[46] The Frogfruit plays a valuable role in supporting local wildlife. According to the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center it serves as a host for the larvae of the phaon crescentspot, buckeye, and white peacock butterflies, and its flowers attract adult butterflies.[47]

For additional images visit the Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center.

Where can you buy it?

Endnotes

The endnotes below will tell you where I found the information I provide in this post. Here is what the abbreviations mean:

Ajilvsgi (2003) stands for Geyata Ajilvsgi’s 2003 book Wildflowers of Texas.

Bowen and Bowen (1998) stands for the 1998 book Habitat Gardening for Houston and Southeast Texas by Mark and Mary Bowen, as summarized in the collection I created on the Encyclopedia of Life.

Native Plant Society (2016) stands for the Native Plant Guide, as updated in February 2016, of the Native Plant Society of Texas, Houston Chapter.

Wasowski and Wasowski (2003) stands for the 2003 book Native Texas Plants: Landscaping Region by Region, second edition, by Sally and Andy Wasowski.

[1] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 209).

[2] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 209).

[3] Bowen and Bowen (1998).

[4] Ajilvsgi (2003, page 385).

[5] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 189).

[6] Ajilvsgi (2003, page 385).

[7] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Conoclinium coelestinum. Online here.

[8] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Salvia azurea. Online here.

[9] Ajilvsgi (2003, page 449).

[10] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Salvia azurea. Online here.

[11] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Salvia azurea. Online here.

[12] Native Plant Society (2016).

[13] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 110).

[14] Ajilvsgi (2003, page 451).

[15] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 110).

[16] Native Plant Society (2016).

[16a] Ajilvsgi (2003, 481)

[16b] Bowen and Bowen (1998).

[16c] Native Plant Society (2016).

[17] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 113).

[18] Bowen and Bowen (1998).

[19] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 113).

[20] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Glandularia canadensis. Online here.

[21] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Coreopsis lanceolata. Online here.

[22] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 186).

[23] Bowen and Bowen (1998).

[24] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 191).

[25] Bowen and Bowen (1998).

[26] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 138).

[27] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Hibiscus laevis. Online here.

[28] Bowen and Bowen (1998).

[29] Communication from Margaret Gwenuch, Instructor, Native Landscaping Certification Program (offered by the Native Plant Society of Texas, Houston Chapter), April 9, 2016.

[30] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 193).

[31] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Hymenocallis liriosme. Online here.

[32] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 193).

[33] Bowen and Bowen (1998).

[34] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 200).

[35] Bowen and Bowen (1998).

[36] Bowen and Bowen (1998).

[37] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Physostegia angustifolia. Online here.

[38] Encyclopedia of Life. No date. Physostegia angustifolia – overview. Online here.

[39] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 204).

[40] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Penstemon tenuis. Online here.

[41] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 204).

[42] Bowen and Bowen (1998).

[43] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Phyla nodiflora. Online here.

[44] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 106).

[45] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Phyla nodiflora. Online here.

[46] Wasowski and Wasowski (2003, page 106).

[47] Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. No date. Native Plant Database: Phyla nodiflora. Online here.

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3 Responses to Transform Your Lawn Part 2: Perennial Native Flowers

  1. Ellen April 28, 2016 at 8:32 am #

    love the discussion about buying local and cultivars – very informative. also – spot-on with my experience with Salvia coccinea

  2. Susan April 28, 2016 at 12:11 pm #

    I agree with Ellen – this is a great topic, and one that has recently become an obsession for me. The Bayou Preservation Association has a great planting guide ( http://www.bayoupreservation.org/Education/Resources) that lists many of the flowers in the post along with grasses, shrubs, and trees. Thank you, Nivien, for the great post.

  3. El Tigre Abuelo April 28, 2016 at 10:50 pm #

    This is a very impressive presentation that is valuable for our community

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