Plant This, Not That

Invasive species are messing with Texas, but you can help prevent their spread. 


Narrow-leaf coneflower ©Craig Hensley

It’s National Invasive Species Awareness Week (through May 21), and you’ve already taken the first step: becoming aware that there are invasive species that are not good for Texas. What’s the next step? 
Go out into your yard (or farther) and see if you can identify the plants that shouldn’t be there. (Go to Texasinvasives.org for help figuring out the species names.) 
Snap a quick photo and submit it to the iNaturalist app or website, where they’ll combine and examine the findings of the weeklong bioblitz.
One easy way to be sure you’re not spreading invasive plants is to make careful selections when you choose what to plant in your yard. You don’t have to give up beauty when you pick better species — every gorgeous plant pictured here gets a big thumb’s-up. 

Here’s a guide to native plants that are easy to take care of and good for the ecosystem. 


Herbaceous plants


Plants that have been highly genetically modified to produce bigger flowers may be less valuable for producing nectar and pollen. Watch out for (and don’t purchase) any plants that have been treated with various neonicotinoids (systemic pesticide that gets into pollen and nectar and kills bees and other pollinators). Ask, don’t assume.

Gulf Coast penstemon ©Craig Hensley

  • Mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea) spring through fall (sun/light shade) 
  • Blazing star (Liatris mucronata)/Prairie blazing star (L. pycnostachya) late summer/fall (sun) 
  • Gulf Coast penstemon (Penstemon tenuis)/Scarlet penstemon (Penstemon triflorus) spring (sun/shade)
  • Tropical sage (Salvia coccinea) spring through fall (sun/shade)
  • Prairie verbena (Glandularia bipinnatifida) spring through fall (sun)
  • Columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) spring (shade-loving)
  • Narrow-leaf coneflower (Echinacea angustifolia) (sun/partial shade)
  • Purple coneflower (E. purpurea) (sun/partial shade)
  • Prairie goldenrod (Solidago nemoralis) summer/fall (sun)
  • Blue mistflower (Conoclinium coelestinum)/Gregg’s mistflower (C. Greggii) (summer/fall sun/light shade)
  • Zexmenia (Wedelia acapulcensis/hispida) spring through fall (sun/shade)
  • Butterfly milkweed (Asclepias tuberosa) summer (sun)

Butterfly milkweed ©Craig Hensley




  • Plant: Lindheimer muhly (Muhlenbergia lindheimeri)
  • Don’t plant: Pampas grass (Cortaderia selloana)
  • Plant: Little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium)
  • Don’t plant: KR bluestem (Bothriochlo aischaemum)
  • Plant: Indiangrass (Sorghastrum nutans)
  • Don’t plant: Johnson grass (Sorghum halepense)
  • Plant: Buffalo grass (Buchloe dactyloides)
  • Don’t plant: St. Augustine grass (Stenotaphrum secundatum)
  • Plant: Inland seaoats (Chasmanthium latifolium) for shade and Canada wildrye (Elymus canadensis) for sun


Shrubby boneset ©Craig Hensley

Woody plants 


  • Plant: Shrubby boneset (Ageratina havanensis)
  • Don’t plant: Chaste tree (Vitex agnus-castus) shrub vs. tree
  • Plant: Mexican plum (Prunus mexicana)
  • Don’t plant: Chinese tallow tree (Sapium sebiferum) medium-sized tree
  • Plant: American beautyberry (Callicarpa americanus)
  • Don’t plant: Nandina (Nandina domestica) shrub
  • Plant: Texas lantana (Lantana urticoides/horrida)
  • Don’t plant: Non-native species/varieties of lantana (pink, white, yellow flowers) low shrub
  • Plant: Flameleaf sumac (Rhus lanceolata)
  • Don’t plant: Pyracantha (Pyracantha koidzumii) small to medium-sized tree
  • Plant: Coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens) or White honeysuckle (Lonicera albiflora)
  • Don’t Plant: Japanese honeysuckle (Lonicera japonica) vine


Trees, etc.

  • Plant: Texas redbud (Cercis canadensis v. texensis)/Eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis v. canadensis) medium-sized tree and Turk’s cap (Malvaviscus drummondii) shrub
  • Don’t Plant: Ligustrum/Chinaberry, Tree-of-Heaven
Turk's cap © Craig Hensley

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