I’m looking for plants for the west side of the house. I have already planted some variegated boxwoods and I’m looking to fill in the rest of the beds with something that would spread (groundcover?) and hopefully give white flowers. I tried Azaleas, and only 2 out of 20 survived. (I also realize now that Azaleas do not spread outward.) The white flowers are not a requisite, but I would prefer them. Do you have any suggestions for me? Thank you! Mrs. Palmer, Houston
Sounds like you learned your lesson quickly and jumped off that expensive merry-go-round of planting the right plant in the wrong spot. You are wise to re-evaluate and take another tack. While azaleas remain the icon shrub of the Deep South, if not OVER-used, they are at least MIS-used and AB-used. Like any other plant, azaleas have specific requirements and, depending on the variety, will usually require lots of water and lots of afternoon shade. A western exposure location in Houston will most likely be an inhospitable home unless you have shade trees or you choose an azalea that specifically enjoys hot summer sun. Few do. If foregoing them completely smacks of being listed as a Dixie-ppointment, check the Azalea Society’s website for the best variety to tuck a token azalea into your landscape.
Making a house call by email, I’ll go on your suggestion that a groundcover is a better solution to fill in under the variegated boxwoods. Whether you choose white blooms to blend in with the striking white in the shrubs or a contrasting color, you’ll probably want a different shape for your new plants to show-off the rounded boxwood. Technically a purple blooming shrub, prostrate rosemary‘s grayish evergreen foliage will bring out the white variagation in your boxwood. As an added plus, you can use it in the kitchen all year.
A native, perennial color plant might be an even better choice to get white blooms and low growth habit beneath your boxwoods. Here are a few of the best for your area.
- white trailing lantana (Lantana montevidensis alba): listed as a TEXAS SUPERSTAR and can remain evergreen in Houston; deer don’t seem to bother it either, although when they are hungry, their tastes broaden like a college student’s
- gaura (Gaura lindheimeri): nicknamed twirling butterflies, they bloom sporadically spring through fall
- white blue sage (Salvia farinacea ‘White Porcelain’): stands up to heat with spikey blooms
- rain lily (Zephyranthes candida): evergreen beauties that love low spots, but also shine anywhere they receive regular irrigation
- blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum): gorgeous, prolific daisy-like little white blooms make this one of my personal favorites; perfect in pots also
The right plant for the right place prevents money and time wasted replacing deadbeats in your landscape. Do your homework, pick the plant that will be happy in the conditions offered, and then watch everyone THRIVE instead of just SURVIVE their place in the sun!