Back to the Soil

Some of you have asked for information on landscaping in this area, so I shall start with the Hill Country part of the region. There is also a Blackland Prairie part of the region, as well as a Piney Woods area. Each of these requires a slightly different approach.

Native Texas Plants

Here is my favorite resource: Native Texas Plants by Sally Wasowski and Andy Wasowski.

The Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center is also a rich resource, including part of its website devoted to identification photos of native plants, the basis of which was donated by the Wasowskis.

Micro-climate. The key to choosing plants wisely is micro-climate, as well as local soil conditions. Extremely local. As in ‘exactly in the 5-foot diameter area in which I’m gonna plant this thing.’

  1. Is this the northern (exposed, colder in winter) side of the lot? Or, is this planting in a southern area protected by nearby walls or hedges?
  2. Is this plant gonna get full sun most of the day? If so, will it be happy when the temperatures are 110 degrees in the shade, and hotter in the sun?
  3. Am I putting this leafy critter into a pocket of soil plunked down by the builder; soil which was dredged up as fill dirt from someplace 20 feet underground; soil which has absolutely no organic nutrients in it? Am I planting in the thin, native limestone soil that is on a slope and well-drained? Am I planting in a small depression that holds water briefly after a rain?
  4. Am I planting under a tree that casts shade all day long? Am I planting under a cedar tree? (Very little will grow under a cedar tree.) See Underneath It All, my first post.
  5. Finally, the Big Question is ‘Are the deer gonna eat it?’ The answer is ‘yes’, so in heavy deer areas, plants need protective fences until the plant is big enough to withstand a bit of pruning by the native ruminants.

It’s pretty much the case that if you live in the western part of the central Texas area, and you see a lot of whitish, rocky soil nearby, you live in the limestone part of the region. If you live east, where you don’t see steep hills and your soil is blackish and pretty gummy, you live on the clayey Blackland Prairie. If you live out around Bastrop where there are, or were, lots of pine trees, you are in acid soil, which supports a different family of natives than the rest of the region.

Check out the plant sales at Ladybird Johnson Wildflower Center. Browse Barton Springs Nursery for native stock. Visit- and listen to- The Natural Gardener. Hill Country Natives is an online site that delivers in the area for orders over $200. I have purchased many natives from Vivero GrowersAND they have an awesome blog about plants and planting.

Maybe I’m prejudiced, but once you get used to enjoying the native landscape rocks and plants, you will come to appreciate the unique sense of place that they provide.


Last half of February and the native Texas Redbuds are starting to bloom!


I am in love with these Possumhaws- they have fabulous berries all winter long and then the spring green leaves start opening in February. No Cedar Waxwings have found this little group yet, or else the berries would have been digested.


A+ use of Texas Mountain Laurels as an evergreen accent above the limestone retaining wall. Some Texas Mountain Laurels have already started popping out their gaudy purple, grape Kool-Aid scented, cluster blooms.


First Four-Nerve Daisy I’ve seen in my neighborhood this year. It loves the rocky, caliche soil.


This Agarito (also called Algerita) shrub grows really well in the shade of the oaks. It blooms yellow in the spring and fruits red berries in the summer, which can be used to make jelly. Also, if you want to keep people or deer away from some area, these prickly leaves will do it.


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