A Shrub for All Occasions

A Shrub for All Occasions

What requires no water, no trimming, and is one of the few evergreen native hedges for South Central Texas? Cenizo. It's the premier plant for a low-water, low-maintenance landscape.

Cenizo is a stalwart in the natural Texas landscape. On a rocky western outcrop on a scorching late August or September day, its blooms cover hillsides and valleys with pom-poms of purple flowers, all the way to the horizon. And, it can do this with no help from sprinklers or hedge trimmers. Even on a winter day, it retains the silvery leaves that earned it the name Texas sage.

So whether you’re adding a drought tolerant hedge, a circular driveway centerpiece or eliminating parts of the lawn using the WaterSaver Landscape Coupon, cenizo is one of the easiest plants to use in a low-water, low-maintenance setting. (For fastest growth, though, give it some extra water in spring.)

Since it became available commercially, the cenizo may have been overused a bit in San Antonio landscapes, especially in shade. When found fully irrigated under live oaks, it will look weird and leggy. Fortunately, leggy plants can always be cut back and restarted. But over-use doesn’t detract from cenizo’s essential advantages: it needs no water or trimming, and it’s one of the very few evergreen native hedges for south central Texas.

This is so logical. For long-lasting shrubs and other architectural plants, why would you use something that needed to be trimmed and watered? For a scorching inferno strip, aka the strip between the curb and sidewalk, cenizo provides year-round screening — so you can save your water for something, or someone, that needs it.

For water saver gardens I design, I always try to find a way to include cenizo, whether as a single specimen (in a 200-square-foot WaterSaver coupon, a single cenizo can fill 16 to 25 square feet!) or as an entire hedgerow — a drought-hardy native substitute for Burford holly, xylosma and red-tipped photinia. Pair it with a couple of mountain laurels, silver sotol and a scattering of bluebonnets, and you’ve got a water saver landscape worthy of a Texas patriot.

Many varieties are available; all are native to the Chihuahuan desert, and none require irrigation to thrive.

‘Compacta’ grows to about 5 feet in height and width, with that perfect ‘evergreen meatball’ shape so loved by landscape architects and homeowners alike. ‘Green Cloud’ strongly resembles its varietal name and is well-loved for its thick green foliage and light purple flowers. Finally, ‘Lynn’s Legacy’ is named after one of the preeminent botanists of Texas and Northern Mexico, Lynn Lowery. ‘Lynn’s Legacy’ has small leaves and periwinkle flowers.

Enjoy all the varieties of Texas sage or cenizo — truly the number one shrub of South Texas.

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Brad Wier

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Brad Wier

Brad Wier is a SAWS conservation consultant. Years in South Texas landscaping and public horticulture gave him a lasting enthusiasm for native plants that don’t die when sprinklers -- and gardeners -- break down. He’d rather save time and water for kayaking and tubing. He is a former kilt model, and hears hummingbirds.