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South Central Gardening: Beating Extreme Weather

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

From icy conditions to extreme drought, gardeners in the South Central region look for tough plants. Here are some ideas for gardeners in Texas and Oklahoma.

Ice on shrub

By Susan Albert

Extreme weather has plagued many regions of the U.S. the last few years, adding new challenges to maintaining the landscape. Unusually high and low temperatures, droughts, floods, tornadoes, and ice and snow take their toll on our plants.

In the South Central region drought, excessive heat, ice, and persistent low winter temperatures have left our plants looking a little worse for wear. Here are some tips for dealing with the extreme weather.

Loropetalum damage

Drought and Heat

When water is at a premium and possibly rationed, here are ways to conserve moisture in the garden from Texas A&M Agrilife:

  • Make sure your irrigation system functions properly and is free of leaks. Do not set automatic timers. Base watering on plant stress.
  • Water your lawn in early morning, before the heat sets in.
  • Mulch your plants well to conserve moisture.
  • Water less often but more deeply.
  • Rain barrels can provide supplemental watering. Contact your county extension office in Texas or Oklahoma, or your Lowe’s store, for information about rainwater harvesting.
Autumn Sage

Drought-tolerant plants can ease your water needs. However, give them time to become established. Here are some to try, according to Oklahoma State University Extension and Texas Superstar plants:

  • Wax begonia (Begonia spp.)
  • Texas bluebonnet (Lupinus texensis)
  • Globe amaranth (Gomphrena globosa)
  • Firebush (Hamelia patens)
  • Marigold (Tagetes spp.)
  • Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa)
  • Autumn sage (Salvia greggii), pictured
  • Blanket flower (Gaillardia x grandiflora)
  • ‘Blue Mist’ spirea (Caryopteris x clandonensis)
  • Daylily (Hemerocallis cultivars)
  • Crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica)
  • Junipers (Juniperus spp.)
  • Nandina (Nandina domestica)
  • Shrub roses (Rosa spp.)
  • Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria)
  • Maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis cultivars)
  • Switchgrass (Panicum virgatum)
  • Caddo sugar maple (Acer saccharum ‘Caddo’)
  • Chinese pistache (Pistacia chinensis)
  • Lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia)
  • Oklahoma or Texas redbud (Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Oklahoma’)
  • Shumard oak (Quercus shumardii)
  • Texas lilac (Vitex spp.)
Dwarf Yaupon Holly

Cold, Ice, Snow

When extreme cold wreaks havoc on shrubs, don’t be in a rush to pull up damaged plants. Often, borderline hardy plants, such as crape myrtle and dwarf yaupon holly, pictured, come back from the roots in spring. Some shrubs whose leaves stay green in milder winters may turn brown during extreme or sustained cold. In the case of broadleaf evergreens, waiting it out may mean new leaves or replacing the brown ones, without you cutting back the shrub.

When my Zone 7 Loropetalum chinense ‘Suzanne’, which had stayed green/maroon year-round, turned brown after last winter’s sustained cold, I just left it to see what would happen. The shrub dropped its brown leaves, and replaced them with new maroon foliage. I noticed Tulsa homes on a spring yard tour showed the same damage to its loropetalums, even at the Tulsa Linnaeus Teaching Garden.

Snow on shrub

My abelias, which usually remain evergreen during winter, lost most of their leaves, which quickly grew back in spring. A reblooming azalea also dropped its leaves and is about halfway recovered.

If snow weighs down shrubs, you can gently brush it off with a broom. However, trying to remove ice can cause more damage, so it’s best to just let it melt.

Dealing with wicked weather can be challenging, but many resilient plants bounce back.