9 Best Native Plants for Dallas

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Cluster of bright red scarlet sage blooms

If you want to spend less time landscaping the yard and more time enjoying it, consider native plants. Most native plants are inherently low-maintenance because they have grown in your area for hundreds or even thousands of years. 

Advantages of Dallas native plants:

  1. Provide food and shelter for native wildlife
  2. Most don’t require fertilizer
  3. Help maintain the health and vibrancy of the Dallas ecosystem
  4. Are low-maintenance

Dallas County sits in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zone 8a, which means that annual lows range from 10 to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. With native plants, you don’t have to worry whether a plant is cold-hardy or not. Remember, they’ve lived here for hundreds of years and are well suited to these temperatures.

Trees

1. Mexican plum (prunus mexicana)

Mexican plum tree with beautiful pinkish white flowers.
Robert Nunnally | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

If you want a small-ish fruit tree in your backyard and love plums, consider the Mexican plum tree. This Texas native puts out beautiful, fragrant white flowers in March and purple plums in the fall. It grows to about 25 feet tall and may even grow well next to power lines due to its relatively short stature. 

Plant this native tree away from walkways, decks, and paved surfaces so the fruit doesn’t fall on an area with foot traffic. The Mexican plum tree flowers in March, signaling the end of winter and the arrival of spring. The Mexican plum is a pollinator favorite. Texas A&M notes that this tree is drought-tolerant and widely available at commercial plant retailers.

  • Plant type: Tree
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Low 
  • Soil: Adapts to sandy, loam, clay, or limestone. Prefers well-drained soil.
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 25 feet

Shrubs

2. Pavonia (pavonia lasiopetala)

bright pink rock rose
Kolforn (Wikimedia) | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY-SA 4.0

Also called the rock rose, pavonia is in the same family as the hibiscus and is one of the most versatile plants you could find. The rock rose, as its name suggests, does well in rocky, alkaline soils but tolerates sandy, clay, and loam soils as well. Pavonia thrives in full sun or partial shade and requires very little water, needing only once per week irrigation during the driest summer periods. 

In addition to being versatile, Pavonia is prized for its beauty. Its deep pink blooms and long blooming season (spring through fall) make it a popular addition to home gardens. Homeowners aren’t the only ones who enjoy pavonia: Hummingbirds love it, too.

  • Plant type: Shrub
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Rocky, sand, clay, loam
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 1.5-4 feet tall and 3 feet wide

3. Texas sage (leucophyllum frutescens)

vibrant purple Texas sage
time anchor | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

If Shakespeare were from Texas, he would have written, “A sage by any other name would smell as sweet.” Texas sage goes by a plethora of other names. You may know this as cenizo, barometer bush, Texas silverleaf, and Texas ranger, to name a few

Maybe it has so many names because Texans love it so much. It is the official native shrub of Texas, after all. It can withstand heat, drought, and requires virtually no maintenance once it is established. If you have a place in the lawn with alkaline, well-drained soil and full sun, this may be the right plant for that space. Also known as purple sage, this plant produces purple flowers of varying hues in the summer and fall. Some varieties have white or pink flowers.   

  • Plant type: Shrub
  • Sun: Full sun
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Well-drained alkaline soil (or acidic soil with added dolomitic limestone)
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 8 feet

Flowering plants

4. Scarlet sage (salvia coccinea)

bright red scarlet sage flowers
James St. John | Wikimedia Commons | CC BY 2.0

Scarlet sage puts out splashy red flowers from February through October. Although scarlet sage is considered an annual, it usually reseeds itself each year. Do you have trouble with deer in your lawn? Scarlet sage will attract hummingbirds and butterflies but is considered deer resistant. 

Soil type is crucial for scarlet sage. This plant must have well-drained, loose or rocky soil to thrive, and it needs regular watering. If you want your scarlet sage to look bushy, deadhead and trim the plant every so often.

  • Plant type: Flowering plant
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade, shade
  • Water needs: Moderate
  • Soil: Sandy, loam, clay loam, rocky, caliche type
  • Duration: Annual, but usually reseeds easily
  • Mature height: 1-3 feet tall and 1 foot wide

5. Winecup (callirhoe involucrata)

This flowering perennial puts out showy pink, purple, or white blooms from March through June. Winecup works well as an in-ground filler plant or in hanging baskets where its stems will grow like a waterfall over the edges. 

Winecups must have well-drained soil. The plant will go dormant in the summer heat, but deadheading blooms may extend the season a little. Intersperse a late summer bloomer with winecups to have color throughout the summer season.

  • Plant type: Flowering plant/wildflower
  • Sun: Full sun, light shade
  • Water needs: Moderate
  • Soil: Sandy, rocky, part loam, well-drained
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 8-12 inches tall and up to 3 feet wide

6. Prairie verbena (glandularia bipinnatifida var. Bipinnatifida)

cluster of light purple prairie verbena flowers
mikeumo | Flickr | CC BY-ND 2.0

This low-growing plant is prized for its purple flowers and nine-month blooming season. It is considered a short-lived perennial and blooms from March to December. This plant is known for its fine green foliage as well. Prairie verbena attracts butterflies and can be treated as a flowering plant or a groundcover.

  • Plant type: Flowering plant/wildflower
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Clay, loam, or sand, well-drained
  • Duration:Short-lived perennial,” reseeds easily
  • Mature height: 6-1 inches tall and 1-2 feet wide

Grasses and sedges

7. Cedar sedge (carex planostachys)

In the wild, cedar sedge is often found underneath cedar or deciduous trees because it loves the rich soil created by the decomposing leaves. Cedar sedge is a clumping, ornamental grass, so it won’t form a sod-like covering but works well around stepping stones or in other places where you want to use ground cover. Cedar sedge tolerates light foot traffic and infrequent mowing.

  • Plant type: Grass
  • Sun: Partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Clay, loam, limestone, caliche. Must be well-drained.
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 6 inches

Ground covers

8. Golden groundsel (packera obovata)

yellow daisy-like flowers in a field, called golden groundsel
Doug McGrady | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

If you’re after early spring color in your lawn, golden groundsel puts out yellow, daisy-like flowers from April to June in north Texas. In the winter, it is generally evergreen, so it can provide some life to your yard. Golden groundsel is perfect for a partially or fully shaded area of your lawn and spreads quickly by stolons to fill in and create a nice, deer-resistant ground cover.

  • Plant type: Ground cover
  • Sun: Partial, full shade
  • Water needs: Low to moderate
  • Soil: Well-drained, moist, and rich in humus. Clay, loam, or limestone.
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 1-2 feet tall and spreads to more than 1 foot wide

Vines

9. Coral honeysuckle (lonicera sempervirens)

Close-up of coral honeysuckle blooms
Paul VanDerWerf | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

Hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees love the salmon-colored flowers on coral honeysuckle. This vine blooms from March through June with trumpet-shaped flowers. In the fall, the flowers are followed by red berries, which will attract birds as well. Coral honeysuckle is ideal for arbors and fences and is not overly aggressive.

  • Plant type: Vine
  • Sun: Full sun, partial shade
  • Water needs: Moderate
  • Soil: Adapts to a variety of soils; prefers rich soils
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 3-20 feet

If you’re stumped when it comes to Texas landscape design and native horticulture, here are a few resources to help you out:

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Dallas County Extension office and Dallas County Master Gardener Association

If you’d rather leave native landscaping to the experts, contact a Dallas landscaper who can help you create a low-maintenance, native lawn you’ll be proud to share with family and friends at your next outdoor get-together.

Main Photo Credit: brando | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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