Backbone Plants – Garden Workhorses

Juan Soulas

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.

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