How to Choose Natives for a Resilient Landscape

Appalled by the devastation wreaked on your plants by the Valentine’s freeze?  Before you run out to replace your native plants, here are a few excellent resources for determining what plants are truly native, and dramatically increase the survivability of your landscape. 

Texas is a big state with over 3,000 native plant species.  With the ever-increasing popularity of planting native, big box stores have jumped on the bandwagon and frequently add “Texas native” to labeling.  But “Texas native” could mean anything from Beaumont to El Paso and from Arkadelphia to Amarillo.  Knowing actual distribution ranges of plants can facilitate better informed landscaping decisions. 

Aesculus pavia weathers hard winters and summers alike.

There are two excellent resources for determining the actual plant distribution areas.  These are the Biota of North American Program (BONAP) and the USDA PLANTS Database.  If you know the scientific name of a plant (always a good idea) its easy to  look up BONAP’s county-level distribution at   The PLANTS Database allows you to search by scientific or common name.  Note that common names are not standardized and many different species can have the same common name.   

Most plants at the edge of their distribution range either had low survival rates or were badly damaged after the storm.  Some examples include plumbago (Plumbago zeylanica), heartleaf hibiscus (Hibiscus martianus), Tahoka daisy (Machaeranthera tanacetifolia), Monterrey oak (Quercus polymorpha), chinquapin (Quercus muehlenbergii), cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens), red yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora), American century plant (Agave americana), anacua (Ehretia anacua), and dwarf palmetto (Sabal minor).   

On a more positive note, native winter rosettes were insulated by the snow and kept warm by the proximity to the soil.  Our wildflowers should be just fine.