Native Flowers to Plant in Texas 2023
Often associated with extremes, the Texan climate and landscape may intimidate many inexperienced gardeners. The different regions of the state also possess seemingly polar differences when it comes to ambient conditions in their unique biomes. For example, the west is known for its arid, desert-like properties, and the east is known for the tropical and humid qualities of its wetlands.
Though these extremes might suggest that the state is inhospitable to many delicate and flowering plants, the opposite is true. Far from barren, Texas is home to many native plants with adaptations for survival in either intensely hot or endlessly damp biomes. Moreover, native perennials are able to survive through seasonal changes in temperature, moisture, and sun exposure levels.
Deserts, prairies, coastal plains, savannahs, and swamps are just a few biomes that bring an unfathomable wealth of ecological diversity to Texas. These are each associated with their own host of flora and fauna. Thus, the flowering plants that thrive in one part of Texas may struggle to flourish in another. To help you determine which native species would be best for your area, the flora listed below are grouped according to region.
Native Flowers for the Gulf Coastal Plains (Southeast to South Texas)
Highly exposed to salts from the Gulf of Mexico, this Texan ecoregion is home to many salt-tolerant or halophytic wildflowers. These naturally occur along the banks of estuaries and along tidal flats and dunes that have access to some freshwater. Generally tolerant of harsh and moderately damp conditions, they are built for exposure to rain and strong winds. As many migratory birds pass through this region, some native plants may rely on them to disperse their seeds.
1) Blood sage (Salvia coccinea)
The blood sage is a low-maintenance perennial that produces spikes of brilliantly colored inflorescences in summer. On the bloom stalk, the flowers are spread quite loosely, giving them the appearance of being scattered over a backdrop of bright green leaves. The native blooms attract pollinators like hummingbirds, butterflies, and bees. Once they are pollinated, they develop into seeds that attract goldfinches and other birds.
2) Cardinal flower (Lobelia cardinalis)
Hardy to USDA zones 3 – 9, the cardinal flower is an eye-catching perennial. To the delight of butterflies and hummingbirds, it produces towering spikes with deep red blooms from July to September. It can tolerate being planted in rain gardens or around ponds that require naturalized edges. As it needs a consistent source of moisture to bloom profusely, it should not be planted in rapidly drying soils.
3) Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii)
The turk’s cap is a lovely option for parts of the garden that are fully to partly exposed. Able to tolerate direct sunlight and summer heat, its roots can survive brief droughts. Often sold in nurseries due to the appeal of its red summer blooms, it grows as a highly-textured and multi-branching bush. As cool temperatures may cause its shoots to die back, it is more suitable for areas with mild to warm winters.
4) Lanceleaf coreopsis (Coreopsis lanceolata)
As suggested by its common name, the leaves of this perennial are shaped like lances. Simple, tapered, and smoothly margined, the basal leaves provide substantial texture and coverage for parts of the garden with well-draining substrates. This coreopsis can quickly spread via a network of underground substrates in fertile areas receiving full sun exposure. When grown in optimal conditions, it produces solitary, yellow blooms each spring.
5) Spider lily (Hymenocallis liriosme)
The Texas spider lily favors moist conditions in wetlands and along the edges of both natural and artificial water features. Its foliage and floral stems arise from bulbs with roots that aid in the stabilization of loose substrates. As suggested by its common name, its blooms have fine features that resemble the legs of spiders. These arise from a central, white whorl with a yellow-green eye at the center.
6) Gulf Coast penstemon (Penstemon tenuis)
If your coastal garden is in need of lavender hues, the gulf coast penstemon is a perfect choice. Its spring flowers are borne on spikes that may grow as tall as 30 inches (76 cm) on mature plants. Though the individual blooms are small, there are enough of them on each inflorescence to produce cloud-like fluffs of stunning color. Under partial shade, the blooms can attract pollinators for several weeks. Due to their longevity, they also make great additions to flower arrangements and bouquets.
7) Beach evening primrose (Camissoniopsis cheiranthifolia)
This Texan native is a flowering, ground cover plant for sandy areas or xeriscaped gardens. Both deer and rabbit-resistant, it can quickly spread on its own to form dense, green clumps of small leaves. Hardy to zones 6a – 10b, it thrives best when its leaves are exposed to full sun and when its roots are afforded ample drainage. Its small, yellow blooms, which measure about an inch across, appear in early spring.
8) Trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans)
The trumpet creeper can be cultivated as an ornamental vine and used to naturalize an arbor, trellis, or fence. Its rapidly-growing roots can measure as much as 33 feet (10 meters) long in optimal conditions! In the wild, this vigorous spreader is found in riverbanks, woodlands, and developed areas that provide many surfaces on which its aerial roots may cling. If you’re interested in this species but are concerned about its rate of spread, you should look into its slower-growing cultivars.
Native Flowers for the Central Plains Region (Interior Lowlands)
The ecology of this region of Texas is governed by a mix of both terrestrial expanses and lake systems. The central plains are home to the Blackland Prairie, which is named for its fertile, dark soils, and the Cross Timbers, which may experience erratic or limited rainfall events through the growing season. Savannahs and woodlands are some other important biomes in this agriculturally important region.
1) Purple coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
Drought-tolerant, the purple coneflower is known for being a hardy and long-blooming perennial. Its vivid, pink to purple blooms attract butterflies, bees, and beneficial insects all through summer. Best grown in fertile and sun-exposed parts of the garden, it can be arranged in rows to provide a bright accent for larger shrubs. In Texas, the best time to plant this species is in the fall. The cooler weather should help its roots become well-established.
2) Golden columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha)
Columbines are favored by many Texan gardeners because they are great for creating flowery borders in both partly shaded and bright areas. The ‘Texas Gold’ or ‘Hinckleyana’ cultivar is quite popular for its bright, bonnet-shaped blooms. These have lengthy, arching spurs that seem to defy gravity and attract wildlife.
To maximize flowering rates, make sure to situate the roots in rich, well-draining soil. Once your golden columbine plant is well-established, it should be moderately heat-tolerant and disease-resistant.
3) Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis)
Also known as buffalo clover and wolf flower, the Texas bluebonnet is an annual species that produces low-growing clusters of light-green leaves. In early to late spring, its well-established stands become dotted with dense clusters of deep blue inflorescences. Borne on erect floral stems, the pea-like blossoms provide nectar to many native pollinators. Appropriately described as iconic, this state flower is remarkably easy to cultivate in the lowlands of Texas.
4) Brown-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia triloba)
A member of the Asteraceae family, the brown-eyed Susan is known for its showy, daisy-like blooms. The late summer to fall blooms can significantly brighten up wide expanses of roadside fields and woodland borders. Often cultivated as a low-maintenance ornamental, this flowering perennial grows to a maximum height of about 5 feet (152 cm). It is best cultivated in sunny and regularly moistened locations.
5) Prairie rose (Rosa setigera)
The prairie rose is also known as the “climbing rose” because of its vine-like mode of spread. To support its clambering habit, its shoots need to be supported with a fence or an arbor. If its stems have a large or complex surface area to latch onto, they can grow up to 15 feet long! Under full sun, the stems produce green leaves that deepen in color once temperatures cool. The subtly-scented blooms are the sweetest shade of rose pink.
6) Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens)
Cultivated for its red, trumpet-shaped flowers, the coral honeysuckle grows as a twining vine. To spread in a vertical or horizontal manner, its stems wrap around the branches and trunks of shrubs and young trees. These produce pairs of deep-colored, oval-shaped leaves that accentuate the appearance of the red blooms. Once the blooms are pollinated by butterflies, moths, and hummingbirds, they develop into inedible berries.
Native Flowers for the Great Plains Region (the Panhandle and Hill Country)
This region of Texas is composed of the Edwards Plateau ecoregion, the Rolling Plains, and the High Plains of the Panhandle. Collectively diversified by springs, canyons, rocky hills, broad flats, and floodplains, each area has a unique combination of temperature, light exposure, soil, and moisture conditions.
When deciding on a set of native flowers to cultivate in the Great Plains, look into the ecological history of the landscape. Note that, in some areas, droughts can be lengthy, frequent, and unpredictable. There are also protected valleys, however, with river corridors and perfect conditions for all sorts of wildflowers.
1) Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides)
A perennial shrub, the Texas lantana can add year-round color and texture to all types of gardens. This remarkably hardy and deer-resistant plant generally produces the daintiest of inflorescences. Shaped like miniature bouquets, the inflorescences are composed of tiny flowers with a gradient of yellow to deep orange hues. Over time, the flowers darken until they wilt or are pollinated. Various native birds benefit from the plant’s seeds.
2) Yellow passionflower (Passiflora lutea)
If your Texan garden can afford to be accented by a plant with unique blooms and harvestable fruits, the yellow passionflower vine would be a great choice. This delicate perennial is known for its three-lobed leaves, eccentric-looking flowers, and its sweet, dark purple fruits. It can climb a fence, trellis, or upright forms of vegetation using its wiry stems and its springlike tendrils. To produce blooms, it will need to be cultivated in moist soils.
3) Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
Fairly common all throughout the state of Texas, butterfly weed is an ecologically valuable plant. As its common name suggests, its sap and its nectar are important to native butterflies and their larvae. Monarch butterflies may occasionally use this species as a host plant for their caterpillars. Thus, its cultivation, particularly as a shrub for naturalizing corridors between fragments of wild habitats, is encouraged.
4) Cedar sage (Salvia roemeriana)
Native to the Edwards Plateau, S. roemeriana is a relatively small type of sage because it grows to a maximum height of just 1 – 2 feet (30 – 61 cm). In early spring, healthy stands of this species begin to draw attention due to the presence of their crimson-red inflorescences. The blooms are arranged in a spike orientation at the tips of floral stalks. The leaves, in contrast, are deep green and scallop-shaped. Drought-tolerant, the cedar sage can easily obtain its basic needs in partially shaded, rocky, and well-draining areas.
5) Shrubby boneset (Ageratina havanensis)
The shrubby boneset is also commonly known as the white mistflower and the Havana snakeroot. Depending on where it is grown in Texas, its leafy shoots may be deciduous or evergreen. When cultivated in parts of the garden receiving partial sun and morning light, its established stands may bloom generously. From a distance, this species’ splashes of highly textural, white blooms look like tiny clouds or sprays of white mist. These are of tremendous value to wildlife.
6) False indigo (Baptisia australis)
Once used by Native Americans to color their garments and produce pigments for artworks, the blue flowers of the false indigo are vivid and delightful. They are present for just 2 – 3 weeks within a single year, but they are worth anticipating because of their stunning hues. Pollinated blooms develop into puffy and attractive seedpods. These can be collected and added to long-lasting flower arrangements.
7) Winecup (Callirhoe involucrata)
This drought-tolerant perennial is named for its wine-colored and cup-shaped blooms. These are borne on trailing stems that spread over the substrate in a vine-like manner. Thus, this species can be cultivated as a ground cover plant in rocky gardens and meadows. If you’d like to restrict its spread, it can also be grown as a cascading feature from hanging baskets and wooden barrels. Note that, though winecups favor full sun exposure, their shoots tend to die back in summer.
Native Flowers for the Basin and Range (Trans-Pecos or West Texas)
Although some parts of this western region are known for being the hottest and driest parts of Texas, they are bordered by some of the most productive and ecologically diverse biomes. Interestingly, there are more endemic species in the Trans-Pecos region than anywhere else in the state! A combination of woodland slopes in the mountains, rugged plateaus, desert slopes, and sandy hills is home to some remarkably hardy flowering plants.
1) Flame acanthus (Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii)
A late spring bloomer, the flame acanthus is a notably hardy flowering plant. Tolerant of just about any soil type, from rocky and sandy substrates to heavy, compact clay, it has evolved to survive in the diverse conditions of Texas. Native to the Texas-North Mexico border, it thrives best in rocky slopes with poor substrates. Its red-orange, tube-shaped blooms resemble the bright flames of small candles. Hummingbirds and butterflies may struggle to resist their nectar.
2) Desert marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
The desert marigold has bold adaptations for surviving in prolonged droughts and intense heat. It naturally sheds its leaves and slows its metabolic processes as a means of reducing its transpiration rate. Often found along roadsides in the desert regions of western Texas, this flowering perennial grows best in sandy gardens with minimal sources of moisture. Depending on ambient conditions, its bright yellow florets may appear as early as April or as late as October.
3) Big-bend bluebonnet (Lupinus havardii)
The tallest among Texas’ native bluebonnets, the big-bend is a winter annual that can add breathtaking color to nutrient-poor and sandy gardens. Capable of growing to a full height of 4 feet (122 cm), this eye-catching lupine produces its deep-blue inflorescences in early spring. The presence of blooms can signal the onset of warming temperatures. To ensure that the majestic blooms appear in full force, make sure to plant bluebonnet seeds in the fall.
4) Four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa)
The four-nerve daisy is a short, flowering perennial that grows quite well in the dry and sandy substrates of xeric gardens. Impressively tough and heat-tolerant, this evergreen species forms clumps of blue-green, grass-like leaves. It’s a great native plant for adding some winter interest to desert landscapes. Low-maintenance, it can be grown as a filler or ground cover in rocky garden slopes. Its cheery, yellow daisies appear during the coolest months of the year.
5) Woolly paperflower (Psilostrophe tagetina)
The woolly paperflower thrives in the dry, semiarid regions of Texas and its bordering states. A toxic, perennial herb, it can cause many unpleasant symptoms in unsuspecting grazers. If your desert garden is free from pets and livestock, however, you can certainly cultivate a few stands of this hardy plant. It should quickly fill in the gaps between clumps of larger, succulent species like yuccas or aloes. As suggested by its common name, its blooms are distinguished by yellow petals that become more papery as they age.
6) Purple groundcherry (Quincula lobata)
Perfect for filling spaces in rocky gardens, the purple groundcherry favors the dry, granitic soils of nutrient-poor and open areas. It is a member of the Solanaceae or nightshade family. Also fondly referred to as ‘Chinese lantern,’ this flowering plant produces small tufts of dark-green, irregularly-edged leaves. From March to October, circular, purple blooms add charm to the appearance of the plant.
7) Scarlet standing cypress (Ipomopsis rubra)
This flowering member of the phlox family (Polemoniaceae) is also known as the Texas plume, Indian spur, and flame flower. Chiefly cultivated to attract hummingbirds to gardens, it produces noteworthy, bright red flowers that are grouped into spiky inflorescences. Due to its minimal water requirements and the drought tolerance of its well-established stands, it is suitable for growth in semi-arid regions.