New to Texas? Plant these Texas Tough alternatives to Lilacs and Dogwoods
February 22, 2017
If you are a recent transplant to Texas, and you’re adjusting to our climate, you might crave the comfort of plants that you have grown before in other parts of the world. However, because of the challenges presented by the difficult soil and sometimes brutal climate here in North Texas, you may not be able to grow many of the trees and shrubs you’re familiar with. We have a few recommendations for alternatives to some favorites you might love from other areas of the country.
Lilacs are lovely....but Crape Myrtles are Texas Superstars
If you grew lilacs in your previous landscape, it's certainly understandable why you might want to plant this beautiful and fragrant shrub again. Who doesn’t love lilacs? Unfortunately, lilacs do not fare well in our intense heat, humidity or compacted soils. In this area, the widely planted crape myrtle has been called the lilac of the South.
Their bright flowers have a similar shape and color range, and they are available in just about every size, from tiny dwarfs to 40-foot trees. When planted in full sun locations, crape myrtles put on a beautiful show without a lot of maintenance.
Texas mountain laurel is another wonderful lilac alternative.Their showy purple springtime blooms have a delicious scent that, while different than a lilac, has its own sweet satisfaction. As a native to the south and central parts of the state, this multi-trunked evergreen (large shrub or small tree) is well suited to the clay soils and scorching summers we face on a regular basis. If you just can't live without it, the Persian lilac has more heat tolerance, but is less widely available.
The Dogwood is another beloved blooming tree that grows beautifully in other parts of the country. There is really no comparison to the showy white bracts (what look like flowers) that emerge each spring. Be that as it may, the dogwood prefers a level of soil acidity that we just cannot deliver here. If you’re in East Texas, you can grow dogwoods more easily. But it’s much tougher here in North Texas. Not only are our heavy clay soils alkaline, but the water has a high pH as well. This spells doom for these acid-loving plants, which cannot properly uptake nutrients when the pH isn’t right. While your dogwoods may limp along for a while, the long term prognosis is never great.
Instead of setting yourself up to suffer, not to mention the plant, how about a Mexican plum? This spring blooming native has a multitude of tiny white blooms that appear before the leaves and add interesting striations on the bark. The edible fruit is enjoyed by all kinds of wildlife later in the year. Once established, this tree will tolerate the low rainfall and high temperatures the state delivers.
Choosing plants that thrive in their location makes sense for numerous reasons. A healthy tree or shrub always looks better than one that is fighting to survive. Understanding more about what grows well here in our North Texas climate means you'll soon be making fond memories in your beautiful new surroundings.