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Gardening Q&A

Ask the Master Gardeners July 2011

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Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or

June 29, 2011 | 2,076 views | 4 comments

Q: As dry as it’s been lately, with very little rain, I’m beginning to wonder if I should change my landscape plants to those that will better withstand dry conditions. Which plants seem to be holding up the best?

A: A number of the grasses are doing quite well. My Mexican feather grass is lovely and is spreading all over my front bed (and part of my lawn). That said, remember that it is considered an invasive in California and could get to be so in my front lawn. You can control it by cutting off the seed heads and by cutting back on the water.

Other grasses not invasive include Lindheimer’s Muhly (clumps two to five feet tall), and green and burgundy fountain grass (survives and multiplies with six to twelve inches of annual rainfall).

In my neighbor’s front lawn out by the road is a big patch of Pride of Barbados, Caesalpinia pulcherrima. It freezes to the ground in the winter, but faithfully comes back every spring. The flowers are beautiful and it seems to hold up with very little water.

My hamelia patens (Mexican firebush) also freezes to the ground in the winter, but comes up every spring. I do not water it and it is lovely. Doug Welsh says that in addition to its long blooming season, there are several other significant attributes of the plant. It is very drought tolerant and thrives in most any soil as long as it is well-drained.

My heirloom roses are growing well. As long as I remember to dead head them, they just keep blooming.

Friends have mentioned that their purple cone flower (Echinacea) is surviving the heat as well as blooming. Aggie-horticulture considers this perennial to be robust and drought tolerant, and it is native to the Midwestern and southeastern United States. It prefers full sun to partial shade in fertile, well-drained soils. It works well as a cut flower.

Texas sage, Leucophyllum frutescens, or Cenizo, according to Aggie-horticulture’s Texas Native Plants Database is one of our most outstanding native plants. This medium-sized compact shrub has delicate silvery to gray-green leaves, and displays of purple blooms from summer into fall (assuming it rains). Flowering is triggered by humidity or high soil moisture after rains. Overwatering or poor drainage will quickly kill the shrub, and shade will promote leggy growth and less flowering.

Aggie-horticulture lists the Russian sage, Perovskia atriplicifolia, as a low water use shrub for El Paso. It also does well here. The perennial grows three to four feet tall and three feet wide. It has high heat tolerance.

Clara Mae Marcotte is a Texas Master Gardener with the Texas AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, on the second floor of the Texas AgriLife Extension building, 210 East Live Oak in Seguin. The next MG class begins August 24 and runs to December 7. The cost is $170. For more information or to register, go up on the MG website.
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Your Opinions and Comments

July 20, 2011 8:08am
Thanks for the comments One voice - I think I will build a fence and see what happens - I have allot of time now a days which is why I started gardening in the first place

One Voice  
July 20, 2011 4:38am
I thought about rabbits - but it seems they would leave tracts too. ... Couldn't be cut ants - They have an obvious trail. ... I wonder about gofers? A critter that would approach the plant from beneath the ground?? ... ... More ›

July 20, 2011 3:27am
I planted a garden for the first time this spring and everything was going great in my relatively small raise beds. Most of what I planted were from seeds and they had grown to plants and had even started to produce fruit when ... More ›

Ms. S. V.  
July 19, 2011 6:36pm
Mesquite seems to do well in this heat and drought.

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