Backbone Plants – Garden Workhorses

Believe it or not, having an attractive, low-maintenance, water-efficient landscape year-round is possible. The key: a backbone – of shrubs, that is.

These garden workhorses are able to withstand extreme weather conditions and, in most cases, are the lone survivors of an otherwise stressed landscape. San Antonio can experience weather extremes – from a dry, scorching summer to a soggy, frigid winter, which often takes its toll on local landscapes. But the ones that fare the best are those with a good backbone.

Now is the time to reinforce (or establish) your garden’s grit. Check out SAWS’ recommended plant list for an appropriate selection of backbone shrubs for our area. The list is sorted by shrub size at maturity. In proper proportions and dimensions, backbone plants can make for an attractive landscape and provide depth and texture, setting up other plants to look their best.

Plants that overcome the weather include the cenizo (or Texas sage), a silver-colored evergreen shrub that typically blooms from spring through the fall. Another survivor is the evergreen sumac, a hardy plant that produces small red fruit in the early summer.

Picture of Juan Soulas
Juan Soulas
Juan Soulas is a conservation planner for San Antonio Water System. Since joining SAWS in 2007 his duties have focused on residential water use. He works with his Conservation colleagues to help customers find ways to reduce outdoor usage without compromising the health and aesthetic quality of their landscapes. Juan also coordinates engaging outreach efforts with SAWS’ conservation partners -- Bexar County Master Gardeners, Gardening Volunteers of South Texas, San Antonio Botanical Garden and Mitchell Lake Audubon Center – to increase community access to vital conservation information.
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