Our hot summers should remind you to plant at the very least some tough-as-Texas native plants in your garden. One of the toughest available also shines like a silver ring set with amethyst jewels; the much-admired Texas Sage. Look around a few planting beds in Plano and you will find a heavily blooming, gray-leaved shrub bursting with bubble gum-pink or violet blossoms. They are especially noticeable during shoulder seasons when so much else is dormant or dead.

You know a shrub is becoming popular when it has lots of common names. This plant can also be knowned as Texas Ranger, Rain Sage, Purple Sage, Cenizo, Senisa, Texas Lilac and Silverleaf. The majority of these nicknames come from this plants habit of blooming during summer and fall when higher humidity or soil moisture prompts the flowers. And what incredible flowers they are, arriving a time of year when almost everything else has thrown in the towel.

Although it doesn’t really matter, this plant is not a sage at all. All Texas sages belong to the genus Leucophyllum, a member of the snapdragon family. But unlike other relatives, this is no finicky annual that only flowers for a few weeks. Texas sage is a long-lived shrub that flourishes in the most extreme heat and drought our state can suffer.

Child of the desert

Cenizo evolved in the Chihuahuan Desert, a region covering 140,000 square miles, making it the second-largest desert in North America. In Texas we call it the Trans-Pecos, but this desert also stretches over northern Mexico, central and southern New Mexico and eastern Arizona. If you have been to Big Bend Reserve in far West Texas, you have seen the Chihuahuan Desert.

But Plano and the rest of North Texas is not a desert. In an average year, we receive three times the typical amount of rainfall that is seen in the Chihuahuan Desert. And, our soil is much different as well. As opposed to quick draining, rocky/gravelly soil, we have poorly draining clay. And we need to remember that when we wish to grow Texas sage around here.

Almost nothing will kill it faster than waterlogged soil, so Texas sage must have superb drainage. The combination of water-soaked soil and cold temperatures is especially deadly. Texas Sage should be planted on a slope or in a raised bed. If you have heavy clay soil but wish to plant Texas sage, you should amend it. Don’t turn to peat moss or normal compost; you should consider expanded shale, gravel or even crushed concrete. There is seldom any need for extra fertilizer (we will check your unique situation for you) to lower the high pH of our soil.

While they are rooting, water new plants sparingly, then stop. Be aware of excess water from surrounding plants and flowers. As an example, we wouldn’t plant this shrub at the border of an irrigated lawn.

Texas Sage revels in all-day sun. And the reflected heat from nearby pavement is welcomed as well. Texas sage can survive in light shade if the water drainage is perfect, but the plants will become leggy and sparse and won’t flower well.

As a gardner, what you should provide is pretty basic: great drainage, lots of sun and no water after the shrubs are established. Texas sage is devoid of pests and diseases and is cold-hardy. If you choose a variety that is the right size for its location, you will not need to prune it, either. We can direct you with that in order to get plants that match your particular situation.

Cenizo by any name blooms bright

Like that other iconic Texas plant, the bluebonnet, what we call Texas sage is not just one species. There are three found in Texas, and several more come from other parts of the Chihuahuan Desert. These different varieties, and their cultivated varieties (called cultivars in the industry), differ in size, leaf and flower color and their adaptability to North Texas.

We use and endorse ‘Compacta’. For a long time, this was the only cultivar available, and the majority of Texas sages you see surrounding Plano, Frisco and North Texas landscapes are this plant. Even though it is very common, it is nevertheless a great choice for your yard. It is smaller and more dense than its some other varieties, growing to about 5 feet with lavender flowers. Most Texas sages are essentially fragrant; but this can vary with soil condition and weather.

If you have large holes in landscape beds after this summer’s harshest conditions, one of the Texas sages might be the perfect filler. Call or Email Empire Landscaping today and let us help you find your best alternatives.