top of page
Search
  • Lynette Lowrance

Growing South Texas Flowers in Our Four Seasons – Hot, A Little Less Hot, a LOT More Hot and Wet

Every region in the world has its own challenges when it comes to growing flowers, food, etc.  We don’t have a patent on difficult climate conditions.  But we do have our fair share of them.  One of our biggest challenges is that when we plan for our weather patterns, they change!  For example, we normally don’t get very cold winters.  But the last two or three winters, it has been as low as the teens on occasion, and we have had snow.  Even if it’s just one occasion, it can kill everything that isn’t protected.  Another example is rainfall, which we typically have more than our fair share.  Until last summer when we had a drought.  We rarely had flooding here, until the first year we planted dahlias.  It flooded and they drowned.  We watched as every single one of them rotted and died.  And please don’t get me started on tropical storms.  The horror stories we could tell.  The moral of this story is that if you are going to grow flowers in south Texas, you need to have lots of backup plans.

 

One thing that is ever present here is humidity.  Not only does it make for many bad hair days, it can be a major villain in growing disease and pest free flowers.  Until we can cover this area and install an enormous dehumidifier, we have to learn to work within in it.  My brother used to call it the curtain of humidity, and you can feel it when you walk through it.  Almost everyone who grows cut flowers says it’s best to start cutting very early in the morning when it’s cool, and the flowers have rehydrated overnight.  Have you ever walked outside in the early morning here?  Everything is dripping in dew.  Flowers are so wet you have to let them dry out before you can cool them down.  We find it’s best to wait until the evening, which gets harder as we move into long, hot summer days.  In the Spring you can get everything cut, and then come in and eat.  In the summer, you have to eat, watch your favorite shows, paint your toenails, and maybe then it is cool enough to cut flowers.


 And then there is day length. People think it would be great to grow year round in our climate. But many flowers are triggered by the amount of available daylight. This is a topic we are grappling with, and will cover it separately when we can be more definitive about it.


Here is a fun fact.  As cold as it can be in the northern US and Canada, the heat we experience here is harder on most plants than that much cold.  There are two main reasons we can’t grow many things this far south.  One is the extreme heat.  The other is that some plants actually require more cold to bloom than we can give them.  For example, we had to decide that we don’t even want to grow peonies (so not true).  If you are on Instagram during peony season you have to develop coping mechanisms to get through it.  If a plant can grow and bloom in one season, you can trick them into blooming.  But peonies have to stay in the ground for three years before you can start cutting them.  Maybe when we install the giant dehumidifier we can add a small freezer section where we can grow them.  Another thing, regular ants love peony sap and they can get on buds.  Can you imagine those gorgeous blooms covered in fire ants!  Get thee behind me, peonies!

 

In this article we will talk about growing Spring flowers.  Summer flowers will follow at a later date.

 


It seems counterintuitive that we can grow so many beautiful, delicate spring flowers in these conditions.  This is where seasonality comes in.  Want to have the flowers you see in pictures in magazines and social media?  You can do it!  You just have to have a few tricks up your sleeve, or perhaps in your gardening gloves.  And you have to live with a bit of realism.  Often Spring here is very short lived. 


The first trick is to start most of your Spring flowers in the Fall.  Most Spring flowers are frost hardy here and can take a freeze.  Actually, the point of starting early

is so that they CAN get cold.  The point is to get them big enough for the cold to do them some good, not have them be so small a freeze would kill them, and not be so big that they start to bloom too soon.  Whew, that’s a lot!  Cold tolerant plants can freeze all day long in their pre bloom forms, because they have established roots and can regrow.  However, if they have buds on them and they freeze , they likely won’t recover.  We have had experiences with both situations. 

 

One year we had blooms ready to burst open in February, when temperatures got into the low teens.  Even though we covered all we could, almost everything froze.  Last winter we had a similar situation, but the freeze was at the end of December.  Plants were still hanging loose, not ready to bloom.  We had some damage, but after lots of regrowth, we had the best flowers ever.  There is one more tiny part of this trick for us in south Texas.  When it’s time to get everything planted so it can get big enough to get cold, it is still blazing hot!  You have to really want this to make it work!  But if you wait until the Spring to get these plants started, you will have stunted, weak, wimpy plants that won’t perform well at all.


Annual flowers typically live for one season, set seed, and then die in either the heat of summer or cold of winter.  Some of the annuals that love the amount of cold we get here are snapdragons, larkspur, nigella (love in a mist), lisianthus, poppies, stock and buplerum.



Others in these pictures include corn cockle, ammi majus, strawflower, dianthus and campanula. This coming season we will be talking about things when we plant them so that you can give it a go.  We completely understand that many of you would love to grow your own flowers.  We hope to help you try. 


The second trick is to grow things as annuals that are perennials in other parts of the world. Perennials can live from a few to many years and bloom for a period of time each year.  Those nasty (beautiful) peonies are an excellent example of very long lived perennials, in the right conditions.  The best perennials to grow as annuals are those that are inexpensive to grow from seed, and bloom their first year.  Delphiniums are some that work great here.  They are the more sophisticated big sister of Larkspur. We plant them in the fall, and they bloom around Easter for several weeks.  If we had to buy plants it wouldn’t be worth the cost.  But they are so glorious, we are glad they can be grown from seed and bloom before the heat does them in.

 


We have one last trick for growing cool season flowers, and that is to find an environment where they can be kept cool all the time.  Enter tulips.  Growing them here isn’t for the faint of heart.  This topic would require a separate article, but we will touch on it here.  How many times have we spent Christmas day in shorts and T shirts in 70 or 80 degree weather?  If you planted tulips in the ground, they would think it was Spring and bloom on stems about 4” tall.  Trust me, it happens.  So this trick is to plant them in pots or crates and keep them in a cooler.  They have to get started at a very cool temperature, and then grow more a little less cool.  And when they start growing they need lights.  Give up yet?  We almost did, after I asked Kevin and my strapping grandsons to move numerous crates from the cooler to be watered when it was cool outside.  And then move them back inside when it started getting warm.  But then they bloomed, and all was forgiven.  It helps when said grandsons have girlfriends who love tulips.

 

We hope you have found some value in this article.  Although it is somewhat vague, we want it give you an indication that you, too, can grow beautiful flowers in south Texas.  Articles with more details are in the works.

 

Lynette

Stay Grounded

25 views1 comment

1 comentario


5carolbutler
25 ene

Thank you. The article was so full of heart and information.

Me gusta
bottom of page