Which Plants Can I Grow In Houston?
Houston, known as the world capital for space exploration, also boasts warm, consistent temperatures throughout many of its months. When people think of Texas they don’t often think tropical, but Houston often gets rainfall throughout the year and is often very humid. This climate means that it is the perfect place for more tropical plants in the hot summer months!
Known as a humid subtropical climate, the Gulf-Houston biome is known as one of the most biodiverse main urban areas in the country! Throughout the areas around Houston, you can find marshes, swamps, forests, savannas, and plenty of plains and prairies. Houston itself can see amazing biodiversity including piney woods, bayous, and prairies. All of this diversity means that an amazing array of plants grow in these areas, and can be grown by people who live here!
Which Plants Grow Well in Houston?
Houston’s biodiversity means your challenges may vary depending on where you live in the city. While most of the area stays warm during the summer months, temperatures often can get pretty chilly in the winter, especially inland. Much of the soil in Houston is clay-based, meaning that raised beds and other alternatives may be a good solution to your lack of drainage. Plants that can handle these temperatures shifts are great for this area, tolerating both the hot sun and the chilly months. Educating yourself on your local biome and learning what challenges you might face will be helpful for picking the best plants for your home, including bug risks, soil, and average winter temperatures.
Best Landscaping Plants in Houston
When looking for landscaping plants in Houston, you will need to first consider plants that are hardy to your specific area. With the many different biomes in the area, making sure that your soil, sun, and general environment will be good for different plants! With that being said, there are a lot of great outdoor options to try! If you are looking for flowers, consider the Gardenia Veitchii (Gardenia jasminoides ‘Veitchii’). Blooming from mid-spring to fall, these large white blooms smell extremely aromatic and can brighten up your outdoor spaces. Preferring full sun to partial shade, it can handle many areas of your yard. The green leaves of this plant are evergreen, providing a pop of color all year. Similar to the Gardenia Veitchii, the Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) also has fragrant white blooms, but unlike the more bush-like structure of the Gardenia, Star Jasmine loves to trellis up fences or railings. In fact, the Star Jasmine can grow up to 6 feet in one season!
Tuscan Blue Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is hardy to the outdoor conditions in Houston, providing not only greenery but herbs for your meals! This variation of rosemary can bloom white or blue flowers, even adding some color to your garden. Thriving even with lower levels of water and in indirect bright light, this plant works well both in the garden or in a windowsill! Want greenery that has some variety? English Ivy comes in many different different shades and sizes that love trellising, and they all do pretty well in Houston! They don’t require extreme abounts of water, and do best in low to medium indirect light. The English Ivy Green Ideal (Hedra helix) has beautiful dark dreen leaves that will bring life to any patio or fencing! English Ivy Glacier (Hedra helix ‘Variegata’) has silvery grey and cream markings across the leaves. By comparison, the English Ivy Gold Child has golden-yellow to white variations on its leaves. All of these ivys do well in hanging baskets indoors, or in the shadier parts of your yard!
Which Plants are Native to Houston?
Many plants grow natively in Houston, and are crucially important to its ecosystem. Choosing native plants for your yard has many benefits, for example you already know that these plants are extremely hardy to your area and that they should thrive with the right care. Native plants provide essential shelter and food for local wildlife including birds, bees, and butterflies, helping to support biodiversity and your neighborhood pollinators! Talk to your local nursery to learn about what specific variants of plants are native to your area - they may even have suggestions on some endangered plants you can help repopulate!
American Wisteria (Wisteria frutescens) is native to the Houston area and is found across Texas. These flowers are often used as wedding flowers due to their elegant waterfalls of flowers that they produce! If you want a dramatic, trellising plant, this is a great option for your outdoor space. Texan varieties often have lighter purple/lavender flowers that will add amazing color to your space. These plants grow so fast that they are sometimes known to choke out other plants, so cut them back if needed!
Another great native plant to the Houston area is the Texas Lantana (Lantana Horrida). This plant sprouts striking orange and yellow flowers that attract local pollinators like butterflies! This Lantana is drought tolerant in case meaning they can survive a dry spell, and they prefer full to partial sun. The flowers will bloom throughout the summer, making this a great flowering option!
Other Plants that Grow Best in Houston
The Split Leaf Philodendron (Monstera deliciosa), also known as the swiss cheese plant because of its hole-filled leaves, is a gorgeous addition to an outdoor space. A bit more finicky to grow, this plant mostly is chosen as an indoor plant, but could be put outside in Houston if you meet the right conditions. Needing partial sun and shade in midday, watering this plant once a week will help ensure its survival. It also needs well-draining soil, and prefers fertilized soil as well, something you may need to create if there is too much clay naturally in your soil!
Some more cold-hardy succulents can live outside in Houston, as long as they are placed in areas where they won’t get overwated! Aloe Vera (Aloe barbadensis) is a great option for succulents, as it has wonderfully useful medicinal uses along with being aesthetic! Able to grow indoors or outdoors, Aloe Vera’s leaves have amazing antioxidant and antibacterial uses, and often is used on skin in different beauty products.
Houston Gardening Tips
Growing in Houston can require some research before you get started. Since many areas around Houston have very clay-dense earth, many people will build raised beds to help expand the range of plants they can grow. You also can choose native plants or those that can handle more clay-bound soil well!
Check how much sun the different parts of your yard or home get, as the summer sun can be pretty overbearing for some plant varieties. The same goes for water - while Houston often gets enough rain to sustain many plants, extra watering may be needed during dry spells. It also is important to make sure water doesn’t pool anywhere around your yard during larger storms.
When Should I Plant My Garden in Houston?
Cold-weather plants don’t often do well in Houston, and since temperatures don’t often get cold until the end of November or December, fall crops have to be planted pretty late in the season. If you are in the warmer parts of Houston, you usually will have a year-round planting season of about nine months. The first frost in these warmer areas are usually around mid-December, so make sure to bring in and frost-sensitive plants before this time! In the cooler parts of Houston, the first frost can be closer to mid November.
Regardless of estimated freeze time, things can quickly change! Make sure to pay attention yearly to potential frost dates, and plant seedlings inside accordingly. The rule of thumb is to usually start seeds 6-8 weeks indoors before the last frost date in order to give them a healthy head start and to allow for more growing cycles and harvests!
Planting in Zone 9a & 8b
Houston’s temperatures fall within Zone 9a and 8b of the USDA’s Plant Hardiness ratings. These ratings are decided based on the minimum average winter temperature to help see which plants are hardy enough to survive your winters. 9a has a minimum average winter temperature of 20°F to 25°F, while Zone 8b has a minimum average winter temp of 15°F to 20°F. A great option for these Zones, especially the cooler areas, are winter gardens! Planting cold-loving plants like spinach and broccoli in October when your soil is still warm can make for a great cool-weather crop! These Zones also allow for a host of fruit trees, including Pear trees, Apricot trees, Cherry trees, Fig trees, Kiwi trees, and Banana trees!
For your plants that may struggle during the cooler temperatures in these Zones, especially in Zone 8b, raised beds can help keep your soil warmer! Mulch can help both trap in warmth during the cooler months, and protect the soil from the harsh rays during the summer, as well as preventing too much water evaporation. If you have a yard that struggles to get enough water, drip irrigation systems can be an amazing solution to help your plants thrive!