By Lynn Fleming, Central Texas Master Naturalist
Have you been wanting to add native plants to your landscape, but don’t know where to start? An easy way to introduce natives is in containers. Container gardens are also a plus for apartment dwellers, those with limited yard space and folks with strict HOA rules.
Planting in containers also lets you arrange natives at will without having to uproot their sometimes delicate root systems. You can also mix and match them with more common plants for lovely displays during different times of the year. Little bluestem makes a beautiful vertical backdrop for lower growing winecups or even petunias.
There are a few things to consider for container gardening. Number one on the list is container size. Make sure that you choose one that is large enough and won’t tip over if the plant is tall like a prairie grass. Since we live in Texas, don’t forget that you will have to water – even the natives get thirsty!
Plant choice is next. You may have heard of the “Thrillers, Fillers, and Spillers” formula for containers. It applies to natives as well. Choices of “thrillers” can include gaillardia (fire wheel), bee balm, bluebonnets, milkweed, mealy cup sage and many others. Mountain laurel with its grape Kool-Aid bloom fragrance can be a show stopper as well. “Fillers” can include many grass species such as little bluestem, bushy bluestem, sideoats grama (the state grass of Texas), inland seaoats, and lower forbs such as chile pequin. Believe it or not, grasses are quite showy with their blooms. They are small, but pack a punch for color. “Spillers” that work well are frog fruit, maidenhair or wood ferns, and evening primrose.
Here’s an added bonus for natives: they attract pollinators! Butterflies, bees, hummingbirds will love you for planting what they need. Butterfly weed and mealy sage are irresistible and are often covered up with various fliers looking for nectar and pollen.
So this spring and summer, give natives a try in your containers. They won’t let you down.