Wildflowers In The Garden
We have had some cooler than usual spring weather in the last
few weeks. Such wonderful weather encourages us to be outdoors
where we can see and appreciate our landscapes. While doing so,
I noticed that the wildflowers that I have planted seem to be
growing exceptionally well this year. The wildflowers are lovely
to behold and are magnets for pollinators and beneficial insects
for the vegetable gardens.
When planting for my yard, one of the many considerations is the
bloom period of the plant. Over the years I have planted a
diversity of plants. One of several excellent reasons for plant
diversity is to cover the longest range of bloom periods. That
way, most of the time, with our mild winters we can have some
plants flowering ten to twelve months of the year.
Beginning in February the Violets (Viola sp.) burst forth with
their beautiful blue to lavender flowers. Growing 3 to 8 inches
tall with bright green leaves the clumps of violets provide a
bright contrast to the generally gray and browns of late winter.
Their flowering period usually lasts through April. Another deep
blue to purple flowering plant of February is the spiderwort (Tradescantia
ohioensis). This plant normally grows one to two feet tall and
prefers several hours of sun to full sun for maximum bloom. But
it also grows quite well in filtered sun, so it is a good candidate
for planting under your live oak. Usually by the end of May it
has completed its flowering cycle.
The pale blue flowers clustered along the 12 to 18 inch stalk of
the Lyre Leaf Sage (Salvia lyrata) is always a welcome sight
for my eyes as it begins blooming in February and continues
through April or early May. The stem of this salvia grows from a
basal rosette of leaves and the plant does not get as large as
many other salvias. This, along with its delicate appearance
makes it a welcome addition to many smaller gardens.
Another colorful wildflower that usually begins blooming by the
end of February is winecup (Callirhoe involucrate). The deep
wine red color of its flower is noticed from blocks away.
Usually trailing along the ground and growing six to 12 inches
high makes this plant an excellent choice for part of a ground
cover program to add seasonal color. The stems and leaves are
rarely visible or noticed but everyone will appreciate the
claret red flowers.
In March and April, my cross vine (Bignonia capreolata) that
grows into the top of my live oak flowered so abundantly that
it made the oak appear to be in bloom. This vine blooms during
the spring return migration of the ruby throated hummingbird
that feeds on the nectar of this flower.
One of my favorite wildflowers that is flowering nicely in March
is Indian Blanket (Gaillardia pulchella). This extremely hardy
plant will flower abundantly throughout all twelve months in
mild winters. It grows well and blooms nicely in pots preferring
filtered or morning sun. In the ground, it is an excellent plant
for full sun and reaches up to two feet high. The gorgeous
combination of red and yellow petals will add interest, beauty,
and a splash of color for any garden.
The delicate looking but quite hardy blue-eyed grass (Sisyrinchium
angustifolium) brings a splash of blue to the yard by March.
Although the leaves are grass-like and grow 6 to twelve inches
long, it is not a grass but a member of the iris family. Full
sun is best for this clump forming plant that fits nicely into a
seasonal ground cover program.
Another good ground cover plant that begins to flower in March
is frog fruit (Phyla incise) and it flowers through November. It
grows to a height of six to twelve inches tall with numerous
flower heads containing clusters of tiny white flowers. This is
the host plant for the Phaon Crescent, one of our native
For the addition of bright yellow to a garden, I heartily
recommend green-thread (Thelesperma filifolium). This is another
plant that blooms from March throughout the year, off and on.
Its compact form and height; eight to eighteen inches make it a
very useful plant in the garden.
In April, look for purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea) to add
its striking beauty to your garden. This species grows to thirty
inches tall and does very well in filtered or morning sun. With
proper water and soil conditions it grows well in full sun also.
The pink-purple flower petals are a unique color that is not
easily found in flowers. This is an excellent nectar plant for
A great plant from south Texas that does very well in the
greater Houston area is Barbados cherry (Malpighia glabra). Its
bloom cycle is March through November. The shrub, which usually
grows to four feet in height, is covered with bright rose pink
and white flowers. It likes filtered, morning, or full sun. For
those that need a smaller shrub, there is a dwarf version
A durable and hardy old stand-by is Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus
arboreus var. drummondii). This species usually begins flowering
in April and will provide bright red color through November. The
nectar of this plant is much sought after food source for the
ruby throated hummingbird, especially in September when we have
greater numbers migrating through our area. This is a versatile
and adaptable plant, which can be grown in full shade to full
sun and requires no additional watering. It usually reaches a
height of from four to six feet, but can be trimmed back every
few years to keep it low growing if desired.
By balancing the landscape with various plants of different
bloom periods, textures, form, and shape we will enjoy being in
our gardens every month.
This article is provided by Urban Harvest, Inc. To learn about
gardening classes, farmers markets, community gardens and more
www.urbanharvest.org or call 713-880-5540 for more
information. The article was written by Glenn Olsen who is past
State President of the Native Plant Society of Texas and served
on the Board of the Houston Audubon Society as VP of Education.