This list contains some out-of-the-ordinary, but extraordinary plants that grow well in Central Texas and are often overlooked. I recommend trying these if they can be found. These are gems that deserve more attention in our landscapes. I have excluded from this list, plants covered under other topic pages on this site (e.g. palms, citrus, ornamental grasses, etc.).
Magnolia grandiflora ‘Little Gem’: a very dwarf southern magnolia with leaves and flowers about half the size of the species. Grows to 15′. Solves the space problem in your yard if you love southern magnolias! Needs some soil acidity if grown in Central Texas.
Cercis canadensis var.mexicana – Mexican Redbud which has a very glossy, wavy,green foliage and thrives in dry soil conditions of Central Texas. When not in bloom, the foliage is beautiful
Prunus mexicana – Mexican Plum: a compact, finely branched deciduous tree with maroon colored exfoliating bark, this small tree flowers profusely with white blooms in spring and is very adaptable to central Texas soils and conditions.
Ilex decidua – Possomhaw Holly: The spendor of this plant reveals itself in winter when it’s barren branches are lined with bright red berries that add wonderful color to the winter landscape and persist throughout winter providing a food source by birds.
Eleagnus Pungens, variegated varieties only – xerophytic, colorful, a personal favorite. Variegated varieties grow much slower.
Ilex vomitoria ‘pendula’ (Weeping yaupon) – a native plant that grows to tree proportions with weeping branches, an eye catcher. Produces abundance of red berries. Ilex vomitoria ‘Will Fleming’ (an upright, columnar growing yaupon) – discovered in Hempsted Texas – grows like a telephone pole! Great for a narrow corner or bed.
Magnolia soulangeana (deciduous magnolia) – any cultivar of this plant is worth having. Spring blooms are spectacular but short lived. However, as a companion plant in a woodland setting, this plant will fit right in and can grow to small tree proportion.
Viburnum odoratissimum: a tall growing large shiny leafed viburnum with insignificant fragrant blooms. This is a very formal looking shrub, more upright than spreading. This plant prefers a shady location.
Teucrium fruiticans (Bush Germander): This silver colored small leafed plant produces lavender/blue blooms and a nice bush form when trimmed regularly. It remains evergreen in the dry, hot and cold environments in which it is found and blooms during winter periods as well.
Fejioa sellowiania (Pineapple guava): This tropical looking woody plant can be trained into tree form, hedged, or just grown as an ornamental shrub. New growth is silvery pubescent and mature foliage is a greenish-blue leathery texture. Two ornamental highlights include the exfoliating reddish-brown bark and the very unusually shaving brush-like red and white blooms. The fruit of the plant is very tasty!
Caesalpinia gilliesii: A hardy native form of Caesalspinia with very fine textured foliage and clusters of brilliant yellow blooms with red stamens in spring. This is an excellent plant for dry locations.
Podocarpus microphyllus ‘Pringles dwarf’ (Dwarf Japanese Yew) – slow growing, very dwarf, bushy form of podocarpus. Another smaller form is Podocarpus macrophylla ‘maki’ which is a more compact form of P. macrophylla. If it can be found, Podocarpus maki ‘nana’ is another outstanding dwarf variety.
Weigela florida ‘variegata’: This variegated deciduous shrub to 6′ tall has wonderful clusters of white to pink blossoms in spring with lasting colorful foliage to enjoy the rest of the year. It should be planted in a spot that protects it from excessive afternoon heat. Seen more often in northern gardens, it does get cold enough in central Texas to suit this plant for our landscape use.
Cephalotaxus harringtonia ‘fastigiata’ or ‘prostrata” This yew-like plant can be grown in upright or prostrate forms. are available and do well if provided good drainage and part to full shade.
Abelia grandiflora (variegated cultivars): This totally hardy evergreen shrub adds tremendous color to your winter landscape and remains compact in form (all variegated plants grow at a much slower rate).
Yucca filamentosa ‘ (all variegated cultivars) – xerophytic, very colorful yuccas. Good for sunny and dryer places, and very cold hardy.
Aspidistra eliator ‘variegata’ a boldly variegated aspidistra that will brighten up any densely shaded area. This plant is very slow growing.
Daniella tasmanica ‘variegata’: Known as Tasmanian flax, this 12′ tall ornamental grass-like plant adds bright color to the garden (preferring some shade). It is becoming more commonly used every year.
Hamelia patens ‘nana’: – this is a very compact and dwarf form of the popular hummingbird bush. Leaves and blooms are less than half size of the species plant so it fits well into compact spaces and does it’s job of attracting humminbirds throughout the summer.
Trachelospermum jasminoides ‘variegata’ (Variegated Confederate Jasmine) – a vine with attractive foliage when not in bloom. Displays well climbing trees. Tremendous fragrance in bloom. A new cultivar “Pink Splash” is now becoming available and worth seeking. This vine is not rampant and quite controllable.
Yucca aloifolia ‘variegata‘ (a variegated Spanish Bayonet) – adds yellow, cream coloration to a normally green plant. In winter, tints pink as well for tri-color effect.
Trachelospermum asiaticum ‘Salsa’: This is one of the most colorful plants you can find for a ground cover. Asian jasmine has been used for some time in green or white variegated form, but this introduction is a dazzler.
Yucca aloifolia marginata
Hamelia patens nana
Trachelospermum asiaticum “Salsa”
Abelia grandiflora (variegated cultivars)
Eleagnus pungens (variegated cultivars)
Yucca filamentosa (variegated cultivars)
Aspidistra eliator variegata
Daanella tasmanica variegata
Please do not ask about recommended sources. We just can’t keep up with who carries which plant at any given time – plus we do not endorse any plant suppliers.
Also, please note that these recommendations are mostly non-native plants that can be grown in central Texas. We encourage the use of native plants in your landscapes as much as possible.