Texas wildflowers (that aren’t bluebonnets)
Bluebonnets herald the start of the Highland Lakes wildflower season each year, but they are only one shade in a spectacular kaleidoscope of color that lasts all summer.
The indigo of the Texas State Flower gives way in April to an array of vivid blooms that keep flower peepers busy into summer and beyond.
Julie Marcus, senior horticulturist at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin, prefers the flower show that comes after bluebonnet season.
“That’s really my favorite, from April into May,” Marcus said. “It’s the second wave of wildflowers.”
Among her most beloved blossoms is the coral honeysuckle, a wildflower that lasts long after bluebonnets go to seed in mid-April.
“It will go through the whole summer,” she said. “It’s a great hummingbird plant. It’s a great larval plant for butterflies. It’s also easy to grow and a wonderful vine.”
Another favorite is the Indian blanket, or fire wheel. As a horticulturist, Marcus refers to the flower by its genus: gaillardia. Everyone knows the Indian blanket for its eye-catching deep-red center fringed with yellow.
“It looks like a big year for gaillardia,” Marcus said.
The fall and early winter rains helped set up wildflowers for success this spring and summer, but Marcus pointed out an especially dry February could cause slight damage.
However, native wildflowers are among the most resilient of God’s handiwork. This year, they withstood a lingering late freeze after blooms first began to appear.
“We’ll need some timely rain to keep them blooming,” Marcus said.
But she’s not too worried.
The Highland Lakes wildflower season is far from over. Here’s a look at the second wave of color getting started.
INDIAN BLANKET (FIRE WHEEL)
(ABOVE) The flower’s petals spread out like a fan from deep red in the center to yellow on the fringes. It blooms May through August, but its season can be longer or shorter, depending on rainfall. For gardeners, it’s one of the easiest wildflowers to start and grows in a variety of soils.
PINK EVENING PRIMROSE
This pink, classy wildflower blooms February through July. It releases a scent at dusk, hence the moniker. Picked before blooming, the plant can be cooked as greens or eaten fresh in a salad.
The four-nerved daisy, which gets its name from the four purple veins visible on the underside of the flower, doesn’t let the time of year keep it from blooming. This yellow wonder will flower anytime the conditions are suitable, even in the month of January. Its yellow blooms offer a nice contrast to the deep blues of the bluebonnets.
Gardeners love this beautiful yellow bloom that easily grows between 6 and 24 inches tall. It has one or more flower heads clustered at the end of each stem.
A late season summer treat with its distinct, spindly yellow petals, this wildflower wonder draws the eye — and pollinating insects — to its brown or black center. The burst of bright yellow with bold black dots turns open spaces into God’s artwork.
Hummingbirds love the drop-down clusters of flowers that hang from vines as long as 20 feet. It blooms in red and yellow through June and is easy to grow. It’s also easy to find at nurseries and adds a bright splash of color to any garden.
This yellow flowering vine grows through June but wraps up its blooming in April and early May. Native bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds love its fragrant nectar, which is toxic to honeybees.
Often overlooked, the prairie verbena, with its purple or lavender clusters, loves open areas and beautifully covers wide expanses of land. It is the perfect deer-resistant color for large areas.
This cascade of color can bloom from spring through September. Its drooping purple petals fall away to reveal a cone-like center, thus the name. A member of the echinacea family, it is used in herbal teas and extracts marketed to improve white blood cell count. Native bees especially love this blossom.
The lovely lavender-blue flowers on the blue curl, also called a fiddleneck and or a caterpillar, are very attractive to bees and butterflies. It is often found beneath the shade of a live oak or a pecan tree and is common across the Hill Country from March through May.
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