1. Chinese Fringe Tree
Name: Chionanthus retusus
USDA Hardiness Zones: 5 to 9
Size: 15 to 20 feet tall and 20 to 25 feet wide
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; fertile, moist, well-drained soil
Chinese fringe tree is a medium-size tree with an impressive flower display. It peaks in spring, when terminal panicles of feathery white flowers decorate branches of lustrous, dark green foliage as if with snow. The flowers are slightly fragrant and produce clusters of bluish black fruit, which attract birds. The leathery leaves turn yellow in fall. Corky and furrowed gray-brown bark provides added textural interest.
2. Texas Lupine
Name: Lupinus texensis
Zones: 3 to 9
Size: 12 to 14 inches high and 8 to 12 inches wide
Conditions: Full sun; well-drained to dry soil
No springtime photo is complete without a snapshot of a field of Texas lupine. This popular wildflower is native to central Texas but also grows in Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Florida. A thick spike of bonnet-shaped flowers arises from a rosette of silvery green palmate leaves. Typically blue, flowers are also available in white, pink, and maroon varieties. White bud tips gradually turn purple or pink. Texas lupine is attractive to bees and butterflies, so look twice before sitting among these plants for your photo.
3. St. Joseph’s Lily
Name: Hippeastrum johnsonii
Zones: 7 to 11
Size: 2 to 3 feet tall and wide
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil; adequate moisture
This heirloom bulb proves that plants in the Amaryllidaceae family aren’t just for winter holidays. Large, claret red trumpets announce the arrival of spring above sturdy stems with strappy green foliage. Easy to care for, maintain, and propagate (by seed or division), St. Joseph’s lily is a plant that has long been passed along from one southern gardener to the next. Previously hard to find in the commercial trade, it is now regularly offered for sale by growers specializing in heirloom plants.
4. ‘Southern Charm’ Verbascum
Name: Verbascum ‘Southern Charm’
Zones: 5 to 8
Size: 18 to 30 inches tall and 1 to 2 feet wide
Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; well-drained soil
The highlight of ‘Southern Charm’ verbascum is its unique blend of soft colors. Stars of creamy yellow, apricot, and peach-pink flowers on upright stems emerge from a low-growing rosette of woolly green leaves. It is long blooming—particularly if deadheaded—and may rebloom after summer flower dormancy. This hybrid doesn’t self-sow to become weedy. It is drought tolerant once established, is deer and slug resistant, and provides a nice vertical accent in containers.
Andrea Fox is a landscape designer and horticulturist, and the owner of transplant studio, a design company. She lives in College Station, Texas.
Photos: (1), Michelle Gervais; (2), Andrea Fox; (3), Fanghong/courtesy of commons.wikimedia.org; (4), Bill Johnson