Blog posts categorized as: Perennials & Annuals

Time to Plant Clematis

Sep 10, 2016

Temperatures are cooling here in Dallas, especially at night. We even got a little more rain last night. This is your signal it's time to get planting! If you love Clematis vines, like I do, your plants will have a much easier time getting established if you plant them now through October, than if you wait until spring.

Halleck_Clematis Ramona
Clematis 'Ramona' growing in my garden.

Fall is the very best time to plant perennials, shrubs and trees in Texas. But, unfortunately, garden center inventories don't always offer the plants you're looking for, or the quantities you need. Why? Well, most homeowners still don't realize fall is a superior time to plant, so they just don't buy as much during the fall season. That means garden centers are wary of bringing in the kind of inventory they need to. It's a bit of a chicken and egg situation.

Halleck_Clematis varieties
On this delivery, I scored Arabella, Clematis candida, Ramona and Snow Queen. I'm already drooling!!

That means you may need to turn to mail order companies to find what you're looking for, like I just did for some particular Clematis varieties I was seeking. Most garden centers only bring in a limited stock of Clematis in spring, and none in fall. So I was really please to find a beautiful selection available at Buy Clematis Direct. They even have some of the blue bush-like 'Arabella' Clematis that have been on my garden list for a while. They also have some lovely idea books on their website.

The condition in which mail order plants arrive can vary. So I was particularly impressed with the expert packaging on these plants, even with a double stack of flats in the box. Each plant was protected in plastic and paper wrap and hard dividers kept plant from being crushed. The plants are fresh and healthy.

Plant clematis vines in areas where the top of the plant will have sun for a good part of the day, but the root zone will be shaded by other shrubs or perennials. It's not a bad thing if clematis get a bit of afternoon shade in the heat of summer. Clematis vines are good for planting on small trellises, obelisks, mailboxes or other fixtures. They are not heavy or destructive, so don't worry about them damaging the support structure.

Clematis may remain partially evergreen in our winter climate, or they may die down do the ground with hard winter snaps. New growth will emerge the following spring. What the vines don't tolerate well is wet, soggy roots during the winter when soil temperatures are colder.

If you're going to mail order for fall planting here in Texas, you'd better do it quick, as many of these companies are in more northern locations; that means they'll run out of inventory sooner or stop shipping due to colder temperatures in their area. Buy Clematis Direct is in Florida, so you probably have a bit more time to check them out.

Texas Sage Blooms Abound

Aug 2, 2016

When rainfall and humidity show up, so does a bounty of purple. You may have noticed a bevy of Texas sage blooms around town for off and on a few times this summer, in conjunction with some unexpected summer rains.

What makes them bloom?

Texas sage respond to a couple of different signals that tell them it’s time to bloom. High humidity or sudden soil moisture before and after rainfall will push plants to bloom; seemingly overnight. Texas sage plants are sometimes called “barometer bush” due to this effect. The recent unexpected humidity and rainfall we experienced last week was just what your Texas sage plants have been waiting for.


Texas Sage ‘Rio Bravo’ in full bloom.

Texas sage are one of the prettiest and toughest of Texas native shrubs. Plants are mostly evergreen and produce stunning silver foliage that perfectly complements the lavender to purple blooms. There are a number of varieties to choose from, most growing to an average of  5-feet tall and wide. If you need something smaller, keep your eyes peeled for dwarf varieties such as ‘Thunder Cloud’. If you want something a bit more expansive and impressive seek out ‘Rio Bravo’. It grows 5 to 6-feet tall and wide and is a heavy bloomer.

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Texas Sage thrives in full sun and well-drained alkaline soil. They will tolerate a bit of shade, but too much shade will result in leggy plants that don’t bloom heavily. Supplemental water in summer will help plants grow faster and bloom more, but over-watering or poor drainage will kill Texas sage quickly.

Crimes against horticulture

When it comes to certain shrubs, au natural is the way to go. Texas sage is one such shrub. One of the worse horticultural offenses committed here in Dallas is the constant shearing of Texas sage shrubs into what I can only describe are large caterpillars…or balls. WHY? Please don’t.


SO…so wrong. Don’t plant shrubs that are too large for the space and you won’t have to butcher them.

1. Continual shearing of Texas sage will weaken them…and kill them.

2. You lose all the blooms when you shear them (so why plant them in the first place?)

3. They look terrible. Just, terrible.

So pretty please, put the hedge shears away and let these beauties do their thing.

As we head into fall, it’s a great time to start refreshing the landscape and adding new shrubs and trees such as Texas sage.

Passion Flower: Prized Garden Possession

Jun 10, 2016

There are few flowers we grow here in Dallas that are as exotic and intriguing as the passion flower. If you happen to have a passion flower vine in your garden, then you’ve no doubt been enjoying an explosion of blooms. While the heavy rains have caused many homeowners and landscapes some serious grief, vines like passion flower have happily soaked it up. Vines have grown leaps and bounds over the last two months and the honey bees, bumble bees and other pollinators couldn’t be happier about it.


Passion flower quickly attaches to any nearby structure, be it a fence or arbor.

If you’re looking for a perennial vine that can quickly cover a structure, such as an unsightly fence or a featured arbor, passion flower vine is a wonderful choice. There are a number of species and varieties of Passiflora spp. available, with flower colors of white, blue, purple, pink, red and orange. Some passion flower varieties aren’t completely cold hardy here in Dallas; they may die down to the ground in winter, but typically reemerge the following spring.

Passiflora caerulea, or blue passion flower (pictured in the photos), is a cold hardy specimen that typically keeps most of it’s above-ground vines and foliage over winter in Dallas, depending on the weather.  Passiflora incarnata, also known as purple passion flower or may-pop, is one of the more cold hardy and popular species for our area. Both will host butterfly larvae and produce small fruits. If you want deep red flowers, Passiflora vitifolia is widely available, although plants aren’t quite as winter hardy.

If you’re looking to attract butterflies to your landscape, passion flower vine should be at the top of your shopping list. Gulf fritillary will flock to your vines en masse. They will lay their eggs on the vines, as it is a host plant, so be prepared for their caterpillars to munch on your plants a bit. Passion flower vine recovers quickly, so there’s no need to fret about any damage.

For the best results, plant passion flower vine on a southern exposure with plenty of direct sun. Plants can tolerate some dappled or late afternoon shade; too much shade will thin out the vines and limit blooms. Be prepared for vines to grow large and assertively. They’ll attach themselves with spiraling tendrils to any nearby structure. Now is the best time to find a good selection of passion flower at your local garden center.

Time for Tropicals

May 11, 2016

If you’re looking to create a tropical feel in your landscape, now’s the time. The bit of sunshine we’re finally getting combined with the high humidity is certainly making Dallas feel pretty tropical right now.  May through early June is prime time for you snap up your favorite tropical plants at your local garden center. Tropical hibiscus, mandevilla, allamanda and bouganvilla are just a few of the most popular tropicals you’ll find. But there are so many more to choose from.

I love to use blooming and foliage tropicals in containers for an instant feeling of lushness in the landscape. Most tropicals make excellent container specimens so they’re the perfect choice if you need to quickly spruce up the patio for a party or your Memorial Day holiday weekend.

Tropical hibiscus are available in a dizzying array of colors and add the most tropical feel to any space. You can plant tropical hibiscus in containers alongside sweet potato vine or other trailing foliage plants. Or, plant them directly into the landscape as a feature in a sunny bed. If you’re planting in-ground, be sure you’ve amended your landscape beds with plenty of compost and some expanded shale to aid drainage. Fertilize regularly to keep plants in bloom.


Firebush loves the heat.

If you’re looking for a tropical that’s irresistible to hummingbirds, Firebush tops the list (Hamelia patens).  This tough, heat loving tropical brings butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden in droves. Firebush offers pretty green foliage and tufts of tubular red-orange blooms. A wonderful plant for both landscapes and patio containers. Plant in a sunny location and provide some supplemental water through summer.


Of course, my favorite Esperanza is ORANGE.

Another hummingbird-favored tropical, or semi-tropical, is Esperanza (Tecoma stans). While plants will sometimes through the winter in our Dallas gardens, often times you’ll lose them to a hard freeze. But that’s ok, because they’ll bloom non-stop until we hit freezing weather.  Esperanza is available in shades of bright yellow, to orange, to almost red.

Hummingbirds will make a beeline for this Esperanza whether it’s in a patio container or in the landscape. Plants require little care to look beautiful.

There are so many beautiful tropicals to choose from right now that I could never list all of my favorites. There are many tropicals that may not bloom conspicuously, but rather offer up wonderful foliage color and contrast. Be sure the bloomers get a sunny location and the foliage tropicals a bit of afternoon shade. You know all those tropical foliage houseplants you love? Any of them can be planted outdoors in patio containers and even the landscape if you give them some afternoon shade. Some of the most beautiful tropical containers are created by mixing unusual foliage tropicals with bright bloomers

Get Ready for Hummingbirds in the Garden

Mar 29, 2016

With such a warm winter behind us here in Dallas, we might be seeing hummingbirds in the garden any day now. Do you have the right kinds of plants in your lanscape to attract and feed these the tiny beauties?


Crossvine is typically one of the blooming plants to attract nesting hummingbirds.

The species of hummingbirds that we see here in Dallas, ruby-throated and black-chinned hummingbirds, spend their winters in Mexico and Central America. Hummingbirds typically begin arriving in the Dallas area in late-March; usually just in time to take advantage of blooming plants like crossvine (in full bloom right now) coral honeysuckle and buckeyes. The autumn sage are already blooming, which will definitely capture their attention.


White autumn sage, and salvias of all kinds, attract hummingbirds.

If you want to attract hummingbirds to your garden and you haven’t yet put out feeders, now’s the time. Plants hummingbirds love typically produce tubular flowers that accommodate their long tongues. While hot colored flowers (red, orange, yellow), tend to be preferred, the hummingbirds in my yard are just as happy to feed on white, blue and purple salvias.

In order to see an abundance of hummingbirds in your garden, you need to attract a female to nest in spring. By putting out hummingbird feeders late-March and planting specific spring-blooming plants, you can entice a female to take up residence nearby if other conditions are right. Plants they love in Dallas gardens include esparanza, crossvine, salvia, honeysuckle, columbine and red yucca.

Pretty Peonies

Mar 28, 2016

While I typically recommend sticking to plants that are tough, tried and true in our Dallas landscapes, I’m a horticulturist: I love to experiment. No garden is static. Conditions are always changing and no plant is a permanent fixture. Some plants may live in your landscape for thirty years…others can bring you just as much joy in only one season. I’m all for planting beauties that may not be long-lived but put on a big show while they’re around. That brings us to peonies.


Peony Itoh ‘Mikasa’ – Perfect for containers if you don’t have the perfect garden spot!

If you’re a northern transplant to the south, you probably grew up with peonies as a common sight in spring. There are several categories of peonies: Tree, herbaceous and intersectional hybrids. I’ve found that all three can be grown here, but some do better than others. The intersectional hybrids (‘Itoh’ hybrids) seem particularly suited to our area. Certain species of tree peony tree (Paeonia rockii) tolerate our summers better than the others. Herbaceous peonies really need the right spot to thrive. Given just the right conditions you can successfully grow gorgeous peonies.


Itoh hybrid peonies are particularly pretty.

An eastern exposure is ideal for peonies. The morning sun will provide them enough sun to bloom and they’ll be shaded from the hot afternoon sun. Or, position near larger trees or shrubs that will shade plants in the afternoon. Peonies prefer loose, acidic soil, which we do not have. Amending garden beds with compost and a fertilizer created to feed camellias, hydrangeas and Japanese maples will help. Expanded shale works well to loosen and aerate soil. Be sure to water your peonies deeply twice a week once temperature get hot. Fertilize in spring and fall. In early winter, cut back your plants to the ground. Come late winter, you should see them start to sprout again.

Note that peonies need a chilling period in winter in order to bloom well in spring. So if we experience a consistently warm winter, you may not see plants bloom as well. Now is the time to find a good selection of peonies at the local garden center and they’re typically only available for a short time.

Fresh in White

Mar 23, 2016

It’s that time of spring when, in amongst a cacophony of color, white flowers slip onto the scene and steal the show. The first white irises just started blooming around town, which for me is always the official signal that spring has arrived. While color plays a big role in my garden, so do accent neutrals like white and silver. White flowers help soften the feel of a landscape, bring sophistication and light up the evening garden. Here are a few of my favorite fresh in white spring bloomers:


Iris ‘Immortality’. How much more white could this be? The answer is none, none more white.

Whites are always the first of the bearded iris to grace our gardens in spring. There is none more beautiful, in my humble opinion, than ‘Immortality’. This cultivar produces masses of huge pure white blooms that are also fragrant. Bearded iris are one of these toughest and most prolific of our water-wise perennials. Plant them with abandon!


Summer Snowflake

It might just now be spring, but the summer snowflakes have officially arrived. One of my favorite perennial bulbs for Dallas gardens, summer snowflake (Leucojum aestivum), is blooming right now.  Native to North Africa and the Mediterranean region, this hardy bulb is one of the easiest to grow and naturalize in Texas. While the common name is summer snowflake, this bulb actually blooms in spring for us. Bulbs produce clumps of dark green strap-like foliage followed by flower clusters that each develop several white bell shaped blooms. Flowers are mildly fragrant and sport small green dots at the ends of the petals. If you love lily of the valley, but have finally accepted they just won’t grow here, this will be your closest substitute in our climate. Plant in sun to part shade in perennial borders or ground cover beds.


Tulip ‘Maureen’

I’m a big fan of tulips…despite the fact that you pre-chill and plant new bulbs each year. I can’t imagine my spring garden without them. There’s never been a single year when I haven’t planted ‘Maureen’, my go-to pure white tulip. This sturdy and reliable variety never disappoints. The blooms are long-lasting and provide bright contrast to darker flowers and foliage in the garden. They’ll also practically glow in the dark, making them perfect for your moonlight garden.


Narcissus ‘Thalia’

Narcissus ‘Thalia’ may appear delicate and dainty, but it’s a Texas tough and water-wise perennial bulb. ‘Thalia’ grows in clusters that multiply each year and produce masses of pure white, fragrant blooms.  Plant in the sunniest of locations or in part shade. ‘Thalia’ makes the perfect companion for roses and salvias in the perennial border, or planted naturally along the edge of wooded areas.

Forage for Edible Flowers in Your Garden

Jan 31, 2016

Just because you don’t have a dedicated vegetable garden, doesn’t mean you enjoy eating from plants you’ve grown yourself. Springtime is the perfect time to discover edible flowers already growing in your landscape.

You’re probably familiar with common edible flowers, such as violas, which are often used candied or to decorate pastries. Nasturtium are another common garnish in salads. But you may not be acquainted with some of the other unexpected edible blooms growing right under your nose.

  • Have Gardenias potted on your patio or growing in your shady garden? Gardenia flowers have a fresh, light and sweet flavor.

  • Honeysuckle plants have popped into bloom all over Dallas. These fragrant sweet flowers are perfect tossed into salads for some added sweetness.

  • Are your Citrus plants still blooming? Add a lemony flavor to dishes with a few citrus flowers.

  • Pineapple Guava is one of my favorite “exotic” looking landscape plants. The beautiful flowers taste just like the fruit -sweet!

  • Hibiscus and Marigold flowers are also edible. Hibiscus blooms are wonderful steeped as a tea and marigold flowers have a spicy flavor.

  • Chives are a favorite garden perennial of mine. the flowers taste much like the leaves and make a wonderful garnish.

  • The tiny blue flowers on Rosemary plants are not only pretty, but have a bright savory, sweet flavor.

Have the weeds got you down? If so, you can get your revenge by popping off a few of their heads. Dandelion flowers not only make a potent wine, but are fine food as well.  Fry them up in butter and they taste just like mushrooms. Clover flowers have a sweet licorice flavor.

While there are many other edible-ish blooms in our Dallas landscapes, some contain chemicals that can irritate your system or exacerbate certain conditions.  Many, many of our landscape plants are poisonous if consumed. Also, take note that if you’re harvesting garden flowers to eat, avoid plants that have been sprayed with pesticides.

DON’T EAT THESE FLOWERS: azalea, crocus, daffodil, foxglove, oleander, wisteria

Originally published for DHome Blog.


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