Ornamental trees and shrubs are some of the first to flower so you can capture the beauty of an early Texas spring. Ornamental trees and shrubs and are early nectar sources for pollinating insects and hummingbirds.

One of the keys to successful gardening is seasonal interest. It’s important to utilize plants that keep your garden visually appealing all year. To capture the beauty of an early Texas spring, you may want to include some of these plants in your yard. Ornamental plants are a primary tool in developing functional and beautiful home grounds. Every plant in the landscape should satisfy a definite landscape need; otherwise, it becomes an added expense, a space taker, or a liability rather than an asset to the homeowner. To achieve full use of a plant in the landscape, the user must know the plant he chooses – its growth requirements and its abilities to satisfy the need for which it is intended.

It’s a good idea to intersperse evergreen accent specimens such as Big Bend yucca, sotol, Spanish dagger, Texas mountain laurel, Arizona cypress, agave, cactus and cenizo to maintain interest throughout the changing season.

In South Central Texas some good choices for ornamentals are:

Mexican plum  – This deciduous, small tree has dainty white flowers, nice golden fall color and songbirds love the fruits.

Texas redbud  – Small pink flowers can be pale or vibrant, heart-shaped leaves turn pale yellow in fall, one of my all-time favorites! Redbud makes a great understory tree and is deer-resistant.

Agarita – Tiny golden flowers are incredibly fragrant while evergreen, blue-gray leaves keep interest all year long. Edible fruits attract songbirds and can be made into jelly for human consumption. Deer-resistant.

Scarlet  or yellow buckeye – This early bloomer has lovely red or yellow flowers and palmate leaves. Oddly, the leaves drop during the hottest months of summer, this is totally normal for this plant so don’t panic. These are some of the first trees to leaf-out in spring, plant in partial shade. Wintering hummingbirds love the nectar. Deer-resistant.

Golden groundsel – Sunny yellow flowers atop 1-1/2 foot-tall stems attract butterflies and other pollinators. Deer-resistant, plant in partial shade.

Texas groundsel  – You can easily recognize this plant in open fields as few other plants are blooming at this time. Similar flowers to golden groundsel, but Texas groundsel is a larger, more robust plant. Plant in full sun.

Engelmann daisy – Look for this bright yellow-flowered perennial along roadsides and in fields. This plant can do well just about anywhere in San Antonio as long as it has sun. Engelmann daisy seeds are eaten by many species of birds and deer may nibble this plant.


Passion vine  – The flowers produced by this genus of plants are extremely intricate and attractive. Larval host plant for the gulf fritillary, Julia heliconian and the zebra heliconian butterflies. This vine will die back in winter, but return in spring. Deer-resistant.

Carolina Jessamine  – Native to east Texas, this vine has bright yellow flowers and can be planted in sun or partial shade, it will die back in winter. Very attractive to butterflies. This plant is poisonous if ingested.

There are plenty of plants to choose from, some may work in your yard, while some may not.

By Sarah Galvan, SAWS Conservation Consultant

Written by Editor