Texas Living

How to Plan Your Year-Round Landscape

By Jennifer Chappell Smith 11.1.16

It’s tough to keep a green lawn in Texas. Drought and cold spells — not to mention your busy schedule — conspire against would-be gardeners. But you can achieve year-round beauty in your yard.

It just takes a little planning to choose the right mix of annuals, perennials, ornamental grasses, shrubs, and grass seed. Here’s how to gain an all-year vantage point on your landscape.

Map it!

Check the interactive United States Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zone Map to get a clear idea of what will work in your area. These colored swaths crisscross the State of Texas top to bottom, outlining ranges from Zone 6b in the Panhandle to Zone 8b in Austin to Zone 10a down in Brownsville. Each zone represents the average annual minimum winter temperature — which has been divided into 10 degree sections. Just plug in your zip code, and the online map can pinpoint your location to reveal your exact zone and details about it.

Talk to a local expert.

Armed with that info, head to a quality nursery in your area and talk to someone like Mary Broemer, a sales associate at Milberger’s Landscaping & Nursery in San Antonio. She’s a self-proclaimed expert by experimentation. “I grew up gardening in San Antonio, so I’ve done everything wrong, and I know what works,” she says, adding that she can help give novices a green thumb. Just ask her questions and she’ll help you find the answers.

With that type of conversational advice, or even help from a landscape architect, you can develop a plan that you can implement and maintain over time.

Green up your lawn.

Broemer’s No. 1 tip for maintaining a green lawn year-round is to scatter rye grass seed over drought-resistant grass varieties, such as Zoysia and Bermuda, so the rye springs up in winter. The drought-resistant grasses work well in dry areas of Texas, but they go dormant in cold months and turn brown. Broemer says that rye grass, in addition to its vibrant, spring green hue, can help choke out weed infestations. “It will look great all winter,” she says. To avoid too much time pushing the lawn mower over tall rye, Broemer suggests buying perennial rye grass, which is a shorter variety. “It doesn’t grow too big too fast, so you don’t have to mow quite as often,” she says.

Use color that’s cold-hardy.

Take wildlife, such as deer, into consideration as you select plants for cold-weather months. Broemer’s cold-weather recommendations in yards where deer won’t roam include stock, pansies, dianthus, and cyclamen (if the temperature doesn’t sink into the 20s). If deer might nibble, she says snapdragons will be your only choice in cooler months. “Pansies and snapdragons are my favorites,” Broemer says, adding with a laugh: “Pansies have their own anti-freeze, I think, and so do snapdragons.”

Ornamental grasses with blossoms, such as Broemer’s picks of African iris and red yucca, can add color amid evergreen shrubs.

Do a little reading.

The gardening companion that can guide you to your neighborhood association’s yard of the month award is a book Broemer has recommended to customers for a decade: Texas Home Landscaping. Now in its third edition (Creative Homeowner, 2011), the book offers specific plant advice for Texas regions — and even includes Oklahoma — with tips on evergreen varieties and colorful splashes that will pop out at different times of the year. “It gives you an understanding of how to blend those together,” Broemer says.

Don’t stop here! Visit the Texas Heritage for Living Pinterest page for even more tips on green-thumb approved gardening in the Lone Star State on our Gardening for all Seasons board.