Saturday, February 1, 2014


It's easy to love all the variety and blooms of a cottage garden in summer. But what about winter?
Does a southern cottage garden have to look like death warmed over for 3 months?
Well, the answer is a resounding NO!
My Texas cottage garden here in Houston in January.

Below are the first half of 50 plants I grow in a dry style (xeric) landscape in Houston. I took these photos in my garden during January on a rare sunny day. All of these garden gems can look nice down to 25 degrees F (US zone 9b) or -3.8 degrees C and some can take much lower.
We don't get many days as low as 25, so these plants should look good year after year.
This past month the garden has endured a freeze of 24 F, a six hour frozen rain storm, and a day of snow and sleet with temperatures down to 29 for a third time. I'm amazed ANY PLANT can look alive after being covered with ice, but most came through nicely!
So, while your favorite flowers are sleeping, why not try a few of these to fill in the gaps. They'll give you something to enjoy during our southern winters.
NOTE: These plants could be tried in Austin, San Antonio, Corpus Christi, The Rio Grande Valley, Galveston, coastal Texas, New Orleans and the delta region, coastal Mississippi and Alabama, and  Florida south of Gainesville and Jacksonville.
Names and descriptions are below the photo series.
Left: Lantana montevidensis (trailing lavender lantana)
Top: .maybe a form of Squill (this one has yellow flowers) Can someone help me name this one? :0)
Middle: Mangave 'Macho Mocha' ( I take this one in even though it could stay out...I love the leaves too much to risk it)
Bottom: Westringia fruticosa (smokey Australian rosemary)
Left: top plant Agave stricta (hedgehog agave); bottom plant Nassella tenuissima (Mexican feather grass)
Top: Salvia blepharophylla (Eyelash-leaved sage)
Middle: common parsley (Petroselinum crispum)
Bottom: Agave americana
Left: common oregeno (Origanum vulgare) Note: This is my first year to grow this splendid little plant as a ground cover. It stayed green through a hot summer and now through a cold winter.
Top: Aechmea 'Burgandy'
Bottom:  dwarf yaupon (Ilex vomitoria)
Top: Unknown bromeliad (probably Dykia choristaminea 'Frazzle Dazzle')
Middle: Kentucky Colonel Spearmint (Mentha cordifolia)
Bottom: Agave lophanta 'Splendida'
Right: Yucca gloriosa variegata (in foreground)
Left: Opuntia 'Old Mexico'
Top: Short-leaved Aloe (species neighbor just calls it Mexican aloe)
Middle: Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis)
Bottom: Gazania species
Large photo: Agave weberi
Top:white licorice plant (Helichrysum petiolare)
Middle side: Agave geminiflora
Bottom right: Texas bluebonnet
Bottom middle: Gulf Coast Muhly (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
Bottom left: Walker's low catmint (Nepeta x faassenii)


  1. Your plants look great considering all the freezing rain. The plant in the top right of the first series might be bulbine.

    I can contribute that San Antonio has been much colder than Houston with a low so far of 20F and several days remaining below freezing for most of the daylight hours and overnight. The agaves and cactus still look pretty good but the lantana is toast. Nepeta has surprised me by remaining green so I will plant more of it this year. The nasella is brown but should green up in the spring. Macho mocha stays in the ground but is not too happy about that arrangement at the moment. Rosemary and oregano always stick around through the worst of it and continue to bloom which helps a lot.

  2. That is the nice thing about this area, something is always green. I was just working on a post of my survivors.

  3. Nice selection there, not all may be hardy here but a good list altogether!

  4. Wow, you have quite a bit of good looking green things still going on in the garden, and even a couple blooms (though I'm not quite sure that bluebonnet plant tag counts)! That Aechmea 'Burgundy' is quite pretty. I only have some evergreen trees to give some green in the garden, but at least the snow is covering up much of the brown ugliness for now!

  5. Thanks for this list - I just found your blog and really appreciate your posts. I live in San Antonio and will be putting in a new garden this spring. Your list is very helpful. Also, I might recommend a book by Mary Irish, Perennials for the Southwest - She gives lots of good information that is specific to our area.

  6. Your 'Mexican aloe' resembles A. grandidentata; has it ever bloomed? Thanks for the ID on the Agave lophantha 'Splendida' - I have a passalong and forgot to write down what it was!

  7. Informative post and nice that you can have perennials that we have dormant in winter. Structure is so important in the garden, especially during the colder months.

  8. Your garden missed the hard freezes. :( I'm just outside of town in Montgomery county and a lot of things were kicked back a bit---or completely toast. Hopefully in March I'll see some new growth.

  9. That's good information for Gulf Coast gardeners! One of the stalwarts in my garden is Barbados Cherry. Other than a little bit of leaf burn, those plants sailed through the cold spells.

  10. Your garden looks wonderful - I'm amazed how well it survived all the freezes. And I can't believe your lantana is still blooming! I'm hoping mine haven't died in these temperatures. Your gazania is gorgeous! How nice to have a hot colored bloom in the middle of winter!

  11. This is a nice list of plants and although my garden here in London has actually been warmer than yours this winter, with no frost or snow at all, it has been much wetter – as in MUCH wetter. I don’t think any of these plants would have liked my water saturated soil, even if it is more than warm enough – I think they would prefer to stay in the Texas and surrounding area 

    I have however fuchsias still in flower from last autumn and the first rhododendron has started to flower. All the spring bulbs are up and it is definitely more spring than winter in my garden. I am going to take your tip about oregano though, I thought about it last year too when I saw someone had it on their blog, but didn’t get around to get some. This year I will definitely get some so I can stop buying the dried stuff!

  12. I use oregano as a ground cover here in Taylor, too. It's nice and healthy now and even spread over the winter.

  13. Really love all the photos, awesome garden. But, IMHO spearmint is a big mistake, mint is very invasive.


I always appreciate your comments & questions! Happy Gardening from David/ Tropical Texana

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