by Wendy

Garden near Dallas, TX
A customer's water-thrifty garden near Dallas, TX features Catmint (Nepeta), Yarrow (Achillea), Red Texas Yucca (Hesperaloe).

Planting In Texas: Specific Considerations and Regional Gardening Tips

Texas is a huge state that spans a wide range of ecoregions. From the sandy, acidic soil of the Piney woods along the border with Louisiana (The Big Thicket), to the subtropical Thorn Scrub of the Rio Grande Valley, to the high Plains of the north and northwest, and all the other regions in between, Texas has many, very different ecoregions. Gardeners need to understand the gardening conditions in their region as it relates to rainfall, soil type and temperature ranges that will dictate suitable plant choices.

Regional Climate Variables in Texas

In general, the area between the Gulf Coast and an arc line of about 200-250 miles inland from the Gulf (a line from Laredo east through San Antonio, Austin, College Station and Nacogdoches) are high rainfall areas that experience prolonged and seasonally extreme summer heat and humidity combined with hot night time temperatures.

As you move north and west up onto the Edwards Plateau and into the Mesquite Scrub and short grass prairies of central, northern and west Texas, humidity is more moderate and night temperatures are cooler which significantly increases the range of suitable plants.

Regional Soil Variables in Texas

Large sections of eastern and northeastern Texas have legendary black gumbo clay. So be sure to look specifically for plants that are clay lovers. If a plant is not listed as clay tolerant, it will not do well in areas with this heavy soil.

If you live in eastern Texas or other areas with very sandy soil, choose plants that like "fast draining" soil and don't plant clay loving species.

Texas Bluebonnet with Blanket Flower (Gaillardia).

The Edwards plateau has excellent limestone derived soils that are very amenable to xeric plants as well as other hardy garden perennials.

For many other parts of Texas that have richer, loam soil types, gardeners will have more latitude in their plant choices as well.

Texas Gardening: Make Sure Your Average Rainfall is Compatible with Your Plants

Rainfall amounts in Texas are highly variable. The southeastern corner of Texas along the Gulf Coast and Louisiana border has the most rain. As you move north and west it gradually decreases.

For many xeric (waterwise) plants the dividing line between being dry enough and too wet is about 25 inches of annual precipitation. So for example, xeric plants will never be a good choice for rain soaked Houston.

liatris mucranata in santa fe
Texas Blazing Star

When To Plant in Texas


In areas of Texas with USDA zone 8 and warmer winter temperatures, fall (late October/November and late winter/early spring (February and March) are by far the best times to plant. Don't wait until the summer heat of April/May has arrived as this is a more difficult time to establish plants. You can plant when it's hot, but much closer attention needs to be paid to the frequency and amount of watering. For new transplants, high heat and a day- too-long without water is usually fatal.

Areas of Texas in USDA zones 6-7, fall (October/early November) and early to mid-spring (late March into early May) are the best times to plant.

Overall Considerations Regarding Regional Gardening

There are a number of considerations when gardening in various regions of the US. Each region has its own set of climatic and geological factors that affect plant selection choices. For long-term gardening success, it's important to start with plants adapted to your area. Listed below are the primary factors to consider.

garden in texas
Catmint (Nepeta) plays a staring roll, alongside Nasella Ornamental Grass, Oriental Poppies and Columbine in this Texas Garden.

Determine you climate zones

Find out your US Dept of Agriculture (USDA) winter cold hardiness zone. This will give you essential information about how cold hardy your plant choices need to be. Plant cold hardiness is given as a range; USDA zones 4 - 8. The first number tells you the coldest temperature the plant can be expected to survive.

The second number of a plant's hardiness range indicates the warmest winter temperatures that the plant will tolerate. For example USDA zones 4 - 8. In other words, many plants need a certain amount of winter cold to let them rest (vernalize in dormancy) which is needed to condition the plant to flower. If you're in zone 9 then your area is too warm in winter for the plant to flower and flourish.

salvia greggii
The impressive Furman's Red Texas Sage.

Weather Factors That Strongly Affect Planting Success

High humidity is also a factor to take into account. Constant high humidity in combination with both high day and night-time heat is a limiting factor for many plants. Plants with fuzzy gray or silver foliage particularly dislike these conditions.

High heat. In areas where average summer temperatures often expected to reach the triple digits, be sure to position plants in sites where they can be in afternoon shade.

Know What Type of Soil You Have in Your Yard?

Soil type and matching a plant to its preferred soil type(s) is as important as the effects of cold and heat on plant health. So if you're not able to identify your soil type yourself, it's essential that you have your soil analyzed by an expert or submit a sample to a soil laboratory.

Soil pH is another important characteristic. A soil's acidity or alkalinity affects the nutrient availability to the plants. A soil lab will also be able to tell about your soil's pH Some plants prefer acidic soils while others want alkaline soil conditions. In general, plants that prefer alkaline soils will do OK in mildly acidic soils as well. However, acid-loving plants will NOT tolerate alkaline soils.

How Much Rain (Precipitation) Does Your Area Receive?

The amount of water that falls from the sky is another critical factor in determining plant suitability for your yard. Find out the yearly rainfall average and when significant rainfall is most likely to occur. (Go to Where Your Garden to view a regional rainfall map.)

Plants for Texas Plants For Texas

Text and Photos by Founder and Chief Horticulturist David Salman.

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