15 Stunning Native Texas Plants Accustomed to the Harsh Climate and Soil

Prickly Pear Cactus Plant in Texas

Candice Estep / Getty Images

If you’re planting a garden in the state of Texas, it’s always best to consider native plants that are specific to your region. Not only do they look beautiful, but they also have an important place in the local ecosystem.

Even in urban areas, native plants improve breeding and foraging habitats for birds by maintaining the number of insect prey available, support pollinators, and promote biodiversity. Plus, since they’re already built to withstand the Texas climate and soil conditions, they often require less water and fertilizer.

The following 15 Texas native plants are perfect for home gardens in the Lone Star State.

Some of the plants on this list may be toxic to pets. For more information about the safety of specific plants, consult the ASPCA's searchable database.

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Texas Bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis)

Texas bluebonnets in full bloom on rolling clay hills beside a river at sunset

Scott Flathouse / Getty Images

Also known as the Texas lupin, this native flower shares the official “state flower of Texas” designation with five other species of lupin. The bluebonnet is distinguishable by its larger, more sharply pointed leaves and higher number of flower heads than other lupin varieties, however. The tips of the clusters that make up the blossoms remain white while the blue flowers (up to 50 of them) dot the outside.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Well-draining, sandy soil.
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Prickly Pear Cactus (Opuntia)

Prickly Pear Cactus

 jennifer m. ramos / Getty Images

These plants are known for their yellow, red, or purple flowers that complement flat, fleshy pads that look similar to large leaves. Just like other types of cactus, prickly pears also have large spines, though they are often smaller, thinner, and barbed. Both the pad-like branches and the fruits are edible, the latter being used for products like juice and puree.

The prickly pear cactus became the state plant of Texas in 1995.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Dry and well-draining.
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Chile Pequin (Capsicum annuum)

Chile Pequin

 Terryfic3D / Getty Images

The state pepper of Texas, this relative to the jalapeno is extremely spicy and relatively easy to grow. They are drought resistant and produce the most fruit in full sun, though they also tolerate partial shade.

Chile pequin plants are both annuals and perennials that bloom white flowers from May to October before bursting with small red peppers in the fall.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 9 to 11.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Various conditions with good drainage.
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Sideoats Grama (Bouteloua curtipendula)

Sideoats grama grass

 GH01 / Getty Images

Native to the south of Texas, sideoats grama is a perennial bunchgrass that can reach heights of 3 to 4 feet. The plants produce small seeds that birds love from May to October and purple spikelets that turn into a tan color by the fall.

These plants are known as the state grass of Texas, and are hardy enough to increase rapidly in sites that have been damaged due to drought or overgrazing. 

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 8.
  • Sun Exposure: Sun to partial shade,
  • Soil Needs: Medium-textured, well-draining.
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Texas Purple Sage (Leucophyllum frutescens)

Texas Purple Sage

 jamsedel / Getty Images

An evergreen shrub that can grow as high as 6 feet, Texas sage is native to the northern parts of the state. Its soft leaves are covered in fine hairs, which complement their almost bell-shaped flowers of bright pink and lavender that appear from spring to fall.

These plants are both drought and heat tolerant, while flowering is periodic and often limited to a few days at a time

  • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 10.
  • Sun Exposure: Sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Alkaline, well-draining.
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Pecan Tree (Carya illinoinensis)

Pecan Tree

 Skapie777 / Getty Images

The pecan tree is native to about 150 counties in Texas, helping it earn its designation as the official state tree of Texas.

These trees are planted both for aesthetics and for their nuts, which they begin to produce within 6 to 10 years of planting, as well as their ability to provide shade in the hot, southern summers. Pecan trees are best grown on large properties, since their leaves are quite large and mature trees stand at 150 feet with spreading canopies.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: 6 to 8 hours per day.
  • Soil Needs: Well-drained, fertile soil.
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Esperanza (Tecoma stans)

Tecoma stans

Hans Harms / Getty Images 

Also known as yellow bells or yellow trumpet flowers, esperanza plants are native to rocky slopes near San Antonio and south Texas.

These stunning flowers are tube-shaped and brightly colored, making them a favorite for pollinators like hummingbirds and butterflies, while their heat tolerance is very high once the plant has been established. The yellow, orange, and red flowers begin to bloom in spring and continue through summer despite the heat.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Fertile, well-draining.
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Rock Rose (Pavonia lasiopetala)

Texas rock rose

Clarence A. Rechenthin / Courtesy of USDA NRCS Texas State Office / Wikimedia Commons 

This small woody shrub is commonly found all over Texas in shallow soil and in rocky areas with woodlands and thickets. Flowers appear from spring to fall and are dusty pink with a bright yellow column in the middle formed by the pistil and stamens, almost like a hibiscus.

These flowers are important as they attract hummingbirds and are extremely drought and cold tolerant, making them a perfect addition to Texas landscaping.

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Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Eastern Red Cedar (Juniperus virginiana)

Patrese Kissoon / Getty Images 

These evergreen trees grow to about 50 feet tall with dark green foliage and peeling bark. Eastern red cedars are found throughout East Texas, hence the name, and are extremely drought tolerant.

Due to their thick foliage and dense shapes, the trees and shrubs are popular to use as windbreaks or privacy screening for Texas properties. 

  • USDA Growing Zones: 2 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Acidic or alkaline, well-draining.
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Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta)

Black-Eyed Susans (Rudbeckia hirta)

 Steve Cicero / Getty Images

Black-eyed Susans get their name from the dark-colored center of their flowers that provide a striking contrast to their bright yellow, daisy-like petals. They are very easy to grow in North Texas and tolerate the heat well. As perennials, they bloom from summer to fall and can spread about 2 feet wide and 2 feet tall on average.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 3 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Slightly acidic to slightly alkaline.
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Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora)

Red Yucca flowers

Kimmariesmith / Getty Images 

A unique-looking plant that is both drought-tolerant and pollinator-friendly, the red yucca plant produces tall spikes of flowers that range from red to pink throughout the Texas summer.

While not technically a yucca, these plants are rather known as a “false yucca,” due to their yucca-like evergreen leaves that rise like a stalk from the plant’s woody base.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5-10.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Sandy, well-draining.
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Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora)

Texas Mountain Laurel

Donovan Reese / Getty Images 

Part of the pea family, the Texas mountain laurel is native from Central Texas to Mexico. They are typically grown as evergreen shrubs but are also popular as ornamental trees with dense, dark green leaves and showy purple flowers that bloom in the spring.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7b to 10b.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Rocky, well-draining.
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Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)

Desert Willow (Chilopsis linearis)

 nickkurzenko / Getty Images

Native to Western Texas, the desert willow is a fast-growing, small deciduous tree with long narrow leaves that resemble willow leaves (though they are not related).

Their dainty, pinkish-purple flowers bloom heaviest from May to June and are replaced by slender seed pods in the fall. They grow anywhere from 15 to 40 feet tall and like to dry out between waterings.  

  • USDA Growing Zones: 5 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Tolerant of many types, including alkaline, sandy, and clay.
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Agarita (Mahonia trifoliolata)

Mahonia trifoliolata

Clarence A. Rechenthin @ USDA-NRCS PLANTS Database / Wikimedia Commons 

Agarita, or wild Texas current, grows up to 8 feet in the right conditions as an evergreen shrub, though it is usually closer to 3 to 6 feet on average.

It has sharp leaves, similar to holly plants, and bright yellow wood with numerous, yellow flowers. An early blooming plant, its flowers appear from February to March and are replaced by berries in the summer.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 7 to 9.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun to partial shade.
  • Soil Needs: Dry to moist, rocky.
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Texas Lantana (Lantana urticoides)

Texas Lantana

Cheri Alguire / Getty Images 

These wide-spreading shrubs boast brightly colored flowers that grow in a rounded cluster from April to October. The blooms range from red to orange and yellow, while the plant itself is both deer-proof and attractive to butterflies.

Texas lantana demands very little water and grows as tall as 6 feet high.

  • USDA Growing Zones: 8 to 11.
  • Sun Exposure: Full sun.
  • Soil Needs: Medium to dry, well-draining.

To check if a plant is considered invasive in your area, go to the National Invasive Species Information Center or speak with your regional extension office or local gardening center.

View Article Sources
  1. Narango, Desiree L., et al. "Native Plants Improves Breeding and Foraging Habitat for an Insectivorous Bird." Biological Conservation, vol. 213, part A, 2017, pp. 42-50., doi:10.1016/j.biocon.2017.06.029