Landscape Favorites for South Central Texas

San Antonio Express News
Gardening, Etc.
Sunday, May 29, 2005

Dr. Jerry Parsons

Begonia The Bexar County Master Gardeners organized a very interesting project in 2005 for a Festival of Flowers Poster. They surveyed area horticulturists, botanists, nurserymen and landscapers to compile the “Critic’s Choice Awards”- a display of these professionals’ favorite plants. It was interesting to compare the lists to identify the plant pallet and, more importantly, the expectations for all of these plant people’s favorite plants.Hibiscus

Here are some of the results from the plant survey:


Zinnia-Favorite annual flower Tomato-Favorite vegetable
Hibiscus-Favorite perennial flower Basil-Favorite herb
Crapemyrtle-Favorite deciduous shrub Purple fountain grass-Favorite ornamental grass
Cedar elm-Favorite tree Mountain laurel-Favorite native plant
Caladium-Favorite plant for shady areas Zoysia-Favorite turfgrass
Copper canyon daisy-Favorite deer resistant plant

Since I have been a servant of the people in South Central Texas for 30 years while working for the Texas Cooperative Extension, I make certain my favorite plants can be and will be your favorite plants. What makes a plant “my favorite” is its ability to bloom or fruit profusely and be continuously attractive in the variety of hellish growing conditions we experience every year. In other words, the plants which give you more “bang for your buck”. These plants also have to be able to be propagated in large numbers and saleable in Texas nurseries, i.e., candidates for the Texas SuperStar Plant Program at

Here is my list and why it may differ from others:

Favorite Flower
Annual is Wax-leaf Begonia rather than Zinnia because begonias very seldom gets foliage diseases, does not hold unsightly old flowers, can tolerate cold and hot and can bloom in shade or sun. Mass Begonias
Favorite Flower
Perennial is Katie Dwarf Ruellia rather than hibiscus. I understand why some of my horticulture friends might choose hibiscus – after all, I have put several on the world market myself. But, when you compare the versatility of Katie Dwarf Ruellia, it is clearly a winner. It grows well in wet or dry; it can be used as a groundcover under trees or in a full western sun exposure; it receives very little damagefrom foliage feeders; and spreads by seed and plant clumping. Mexican Petunia
Favorite Vegetable
Tomato – everyone agrees that this is America’s
favorite vegetable. What Extension horticulturists
do is to test and make available to Texas’ gardeners the most productive, good tasting varieties for Texas’ growing conditions.



Favorite Herb
Rosemary rather than Basil since Rosemary is
deer-resistant, a perennial and is drought and heat
Prostrate Rosemary
Favorite Tree
Crapemyrtle – This was listed as the favorite
deciduous shrub by most folks since crapemyrtle
comes in so many sizes and colors. But I contend that most homeowners use it as a small to medium size tree. No other plant in the world comes in as many different sizes and colors of flower and bark as does the crapemyrtle. I am not attracted by the bloom and bark color of the cedar elm?!?!?! Make your crapemyrtle selection from: _varieties.html.
Favorite Shrub
Deciduous is Gold Star Esperanza rather than
crapemyrtle. Gold Star Esperanza is a deciduous
shrub which was discovered in the city limits of
San Antonio and is truly a San Antonio traditional
plant. See the history at:
/00promotions/tecoma/ tecoma.html.
Favorite Shade
FireSpike rather than caladium because FireSpike is a perennial, has a red bloom which hummingbirds and
butterflies love, and is not eaten by any foliage feeding
Favorite Deer-Repellent Plant
Texas Lilac Vitex rather than Copper Canyon Daisy-
this is a no-brainer. Copper Canyon Daisy usually blooms abundantly only once a year and begins blooming 30 minutes before the first hard frost which destroys the bloom. If you think back, Copper Canyon Daisies have only been attractive for the last several years-when we had extremely late frosts. For most of the year, Copper Canyon Daisy has a weedy appearance in the landscape. Vitex is an attractive lilac-type shrub-to-small-tree which can be made
to be in full bloom several times every season. See the
instructions and images at:
Vitex Tree
Texas Vitex
Photos: Aggie Hort-TAMU Superstars
Favorite Ornamental Grass
Purple Fountain Grass – Everyone with clear vision
recognizes this as the most spectacular of all ornamental grasses.
Purple Fountain Grass
Favorite Native
Texas Mountain Laurel – everyone agrees on this native plant. Thanks to the efforts of Lone Star Growers and Joe Bradberry, this plant has now been domesticated. Before these folks start growing quantities of this plant in containers, it could only be dug out of the wild. Mountain Laurel

Combine these choices with a list of other recommended plants for our area: and you will have a carefree, beautiful landscape all year long. For a longer version of this column with beautiful images of the favorite plants chosen, see the first column in the June listing at:

Dr. Jerry Parsons is a Professor for Texas A&M University and a Texas Cooperative Extension Horticulturist. For more information on this or other horticulture topics, go to PLANTanswers .com and visit our County Extension website at http://

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