By Frances Idoux

Special to the Daily Herald

Although he managed to convince Brer Fox otherwise, Brer Rabbit, that memorable character created by writer Joel Chandler Harris, was at home in the brier patch.

Fortunately, there are some garden favorites that are at home in the brier patch of scorching heat and scarce rainfall, common challenges of Texas summers. As an added attraction, they provide a choice of vibrant colors when other flowers have decided to wait for more favorable conditions.

Although not native here, three plants that are at home in Texas summers are lantana, verbena and yarrow -- all perennials that are dormant in winter, but return to bloom in spring and summer.

Both the plants commonly called lantana and verbena are part of the verbena family, Verbenaceae. However, they are different plant genera, each with many various species. Plants in this family do share some common traits, especially flower-spike clusters in a wide range of colors.

Both lantana and verbena bloom best in full sun, but can manage in partial shade, and both attract butterflies and hummingbirds to the garden.

Varieties of lantana will bloom through summer heat until the first frost, and some types of verbena also have an equally long time in bloom. Homestead Verbena Canadensis, "Homestead Purple," has the longest growing season, from spring until fall, and Blue Princess Verbena, Verbena x hybrida Blue Princess, has earned the designation of Texas Superstar, given by Texas A&M to plants tested to be both durable and attractive.

The white variety of yarrow, Achillea millefolium, was brought to the United States by early colonists and used medicinally to wrap wounds, but it is no longer considered to have any medical value. Hybrid varieties now offer a wide range of colors -- yellow, gold, pink, rose, red and mixed. All flourish in full sun, and add a garden asset with their evergreen fern-like foliage.

Lantana, verbena and yarrow are tough plants, suited to withstand Texas summers. They need proper planting, initial care and adequate water to develop a root system to become established. After that, they are as resilient as another famous bunny -- they can take a licking but keep on ticking.

Have any questions about gardening in Central Texas? Email

Be a Master Gardener

Applications are being accepted for the next Bell County Master Gardeners class starting in January. Download the form at or pick one up at the AgriLife Extension Office, 1605 N. Main, Belton. Call (254) 933-5305 for more information. The all-inclusive fee is $250.

(1) comment


KDH does itself NO favors by printing an article in the garden section by someone who says that verbena and yarrow are not native, and has the nerve to recommend a plant that has become invasive.

There are several species of verbana and yarrow that are native to Texas across several regions.

Additionally claiming that this was in reference to store bought cultivars won't cut it, because cultivars are derivatives of native plants somewhere, and those two have native counterparts in Texas.

So it should be NO surprise that they do well in Texas.

Lantana is a tropical plant, but one without the delicate nature of most tropicals.

Lantana is also a type of verbana.

So it's no surprise this ugly, invasive can survive in Texas and all along the gulf coast as an invasive weed and native wild life killer thanks to the unfamiliar toxins in its leaves.

While I do not expect the best when I read the KDH garden section, I'd expect that an effort be made to print information that is accurate and useful to the region's gardeners.

This article is neither.

I'm surprised he didn't throw in the attractive Kudzo vine as an option. It thrives in Texas, and when properly maintained is quite attractive.

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