11 Best Native Plants for Your San Antonio Yard

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San Antonio river view and stone pavilion in the background

If you’re tired of a high-maintenance San Antonio yard, consider a lawn full of native plants. A native plant is a plant that still lives in the place where it developed. Native plants carry a host of benefits for homeowners and the local ecosystem.

Advantages of South Texas native plants:

Bexar County includes USDA growing zones 8b and 9a. This means that plants suited for this area should be able to survive temps as low as 15 or 20 degrees.

Large trees

1. Honey mesquite (prosopis glandulosa

If you’ve ever barbecued with mesquite wood, you’re familiar with this native tree. The honey mesquite tree is a popular Texas tree with a wood that is used for furniture, fences, and fuel. Although mesquite wood can become invasive on open fields or pastures, it can be ideal in a low-maintenance yard due to its excellent drought tolerance. If you’re looking for a shade tree, this is one to consider.

  • Plant type: Tree
  • Sun: Full sun – no exceptions
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Clay or sand
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 25-40 ft. tall; 30-35 ft. wide

Small trees

2. Mexican plum (prunus mexicana

If you want to add more color to your lawn, consider the Mexican plum tree. The Mexican plum tree is a deciduous, fruit-bearing tree that puts out lovely white flowers (pink centers) from February to April. Its fruit is ready in late fall but changes from yellow to purple as it ripens.

Shrubs

3. Yaupon holly (ilex vomitoria

The Garden Style – San Antonio website calls this shrub “the best evergreen holly for San Antonio.” If you’re interested in winter color, the female Yaupon holly plant puts out red berries from November through January and both male and female plants display white flowers from April to May. 

Yaupon holly is often used by crafters who make decorations with its branches and berries. Yaupon holly can be sheared, used as a hedge, or formed into a topiary. Position male and female plants to ensure berry production.

  • Plant type: Small tree or large shrub
  • Sun: Full sun, full shade, or part sun, part shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Sandy or clay; must be well-drained
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 10-25 ft. tall; 3-6 ft. wide

4. American beautyberry (callicarpa americana

Also called the French mulberry, the American beautyberry is a favorite for plant enthusiasts who love its fall show of purple berries. If you love color, the American beautyberry puts out pink and white flowers from May to July. This shrub is often found in forests shaded by larger plants such as Turk’s cap and yaupon holly. 

  • Plant type: Shrub
  • Sun: Partial shade or full shade
  • Water needs: Low but may lose leaves and berries during an extended drought
  • Soil: Sandy or clay
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 3-5 ft. tall; 3-5 ft. wide

5. Aromatic sumac (rhus aromatica

If you want lots of bang for your landscaping effort, aromatic sumac is a low-maintenance or no-maintenance shrub with year-round color. In spring, aromatic sumac puts out yellow flowers, and in the fall the female plants have red berries and the foliage turns different shades of red, yellow, and orange. Aromatic sumac works well in full sun or part shade and is deer-resistant. Aromatic sumac also is drought-tolerant.

  • Plant type: Shrub
  • Sun: Full sun, full shade, partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Thin, sand, or clay
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 2-3 ft. tall; 3-4 ft. wide

Flowering plants

6. Texas lantana (lantana urticoides)

If you or your local butterfly population are hungry for orange flowers during the warm season, consider Texas lantana. This deciduous shrub puts out stunning orange flowers during the warmer months that butterflies and other pollinators love to feast on. 

Texas Lantana requires no additional watering once established. If you want to prune, you can do light shaping in late winter.

  • Plant type: Shrub
  • Sun: Full sun or partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Sand, clay, or thin
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 1.5-6 ft. tall; 2-4 ft. wide

7. Turk’s cap (malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii

If you have shade on your lawn and struggle to find beautiful plants that will thrive, Turk’s cap may be the plant for you. Turk’s cap loves partial shade and produces stunning red flowers in late summer that look like a Turkish hat or turban. If you already have red in your lawn, some cultivars produce white flowers. Hummingbirds love this plant.

  • Plant type: Shrub
  • Sun: Prefers partial shade
  • Water needs: Low to moderate
  • Soil: Clay, loam, sand, or limestone — moist and well-drained
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: Usually 2-3 ft. tall and 2-3 ft. wide; can grow up to 9 ft.

Grasses and sedges

8. Indiangrass (sorghastrum nutans)

Also called yellow indiangrass, this native prairie grass still grows along roadsides in the San Antonio area. Indiangrass produces striking yellow seed heads in the fall and makes a great accent plant or rain garden plant for home landscapes.

  • Plant type: Grass
  • Sun: Full sun or partial shade
  • Water needs: Moderate
  • Soil: Sand, clay, thin — must be well-drained
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 2-4 ft. tall; 2-4 ft. wide. Seed heads grow as tall as 6 ft. 

Ground cover

9. Horseherb (calyptocarpus vialis)

Also called straggler daisy or rosemary grass, horseherb needs no introduction for most Texans. Some consider it a pest or nuisance that is impossible to get rid of while others use it as a ground cover in shaded areas. Horseherb produces small yellow flowers from March through November or year-round in climates with no frost. 

Horseherb is considered semi-evergreen. This means it is evergreen in milder climates but will lose its leaves (deciduous) in colder climates. And yes, you can mow it. 

  • Plant type: Ground cover
  • Sun: Full sun or partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Sandy or clay
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 6-10 inches tall

Vines

10. Alamo vine (merremia dissecta

This flowering vine thrives in full sun or partial shade and produces white flowers from May through October. Alamo vine grows quickly during the warm season but dies back (deciduous) during the winter. It can be pruned in winter or summer, if needed. 

  • Plant type: Vine
  • Sun: Full sun or partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Sandy or clay
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 8-14 ft.

11. Coral honeysuckle (lonicera sempervirens)

Are you trying to attract more hummingbirds or butterflies to your yard? Both hummingbirds and butterflies love coral honeysuckle’s trumpet-like red blooms that appear from April through October. This vine is not aggressive like other non-native vines such as Japanese honeysuckle and looks beautiful growing across a trellis or fence.

  • Plant type: Vine
  • Sun: Full sun or partial shade
  • Water needs: Low
  • Soil: Sandy or clay
  • Duration: Perennial
  • Mature height: 8-15 ft.

If you’d like to leave your native plant options to the experts, help is just a click away. Contact one of our San Antonio lawn care pros today if you want to incorporate more native landscaping into your lawn.

Main Photo Credit: satanoid | Flickr | CC BY 2.0

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