As stunning as Texas wildflowers are, it’s not hard to believe that some very popular plants found in Texas gardens today were once growing wild–they’ve just been domesticated for so long we’ve forgotten their “roots.” These plants can be loosely termed “landscape-friendly wildflowers.” That simply means these wildflowers are attractive, easy to grow and don’t try to take over the entire garden. Here are a few wild ones that have crossed over into cultivation.
Columbines (Aquilegia crosses)
Yellow, heat-tolerant columbines bred from West Texas’ own native species will not only thrive and flower through spring and summer, but are willing to do so even in light shade. Look for varieties such as ‘Texas Gold.’ Each plant lasts for several years with good care, and will provide many small seedlings for renewal. The delicate, ferny plants should be spaced l to 2 feet apart.
Winecups (Calirrhoe involucrata)
Purchase improved varieties of winecups for first plantings (and expect others from seed to pop up at a later date). These flower in white, dark or light pink, and newer selections are both more compact and more vigorous than the slender wildflower beauties seen in pastures. Set them out in well-prepared soil in a sunny location and expect a mat of finely cut leaves and flowers to decorate your landscape in May and June. Their underground tubers go dormant during the toughest part of the summer.
Tradescantia (Tradescantia species)
A beautiful and often overlooked wildflower, tradescantia or day flower can be a permanent, easy-care part of your landscape. Flowers appear in shades of blue, purple, magenta, pink or white, on plants from 6 inches to 3 feet tall. Each lasts for one day, but each stalk usually has multiple bright, jewel-like flowers open at a time. At first emergence, the clusters of narrow, dark green leaves are reminiscent of of lilies. Plants are available in nurseries and catalogs, or you can dig up plants found in nature–you can spot them by color in country ditches from your speeding car. Day flowers disappear in the heat of the summer, but reappear in the fall.
About the author: Cynthia W. Mueller is a freelance garden writer and Master Gardener from Galveston County. For more wildflowers that will thrive in your landscape, see the March/April issue of Neil Sperry’s GARDENS Magazine. Click here to subscribe.