February 2004

NICE! Plant of the Month

Cenizo

(Leucophyllum frutescens)

Cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens)

Image courtesy of Uvalde Research and Extension
Center
, Texas A&M University System

Description:
Cenizo is known as Texas Sage, Purple Sage, Texas Ranger Plant, Barometer Bush, Texas Silverleaf and many other common names. Cenizo grows in abundance on limestone hills, bluffs, in ravines, and on brushlands and dry plains in some parts of the Edwards Plateau, South Texas, Trans-Pecos Texas, and northern Mexico. It has become a favorite xeriscape plant for residential and commercial landscapes. Although the native cenizo is still sold in a few nurseries, varieties of cenizo that are more suitable to landscaping have been developed from selective cuttings of the native species. These varieties include: Green Cloud, White Cloud, Compact, Convent, and Silverado. Cenizo is an evergreen shrub, but in the winter its attractive gray-green foliage will thin out. Its bell-shaped flowers are really what it is known for. Flower colors range from white, pink, purple, lavender, and violet. Some believe that the plant blooms only after a rain; in truth, however, an increase in humidity whether before or after a rain will cause it to bloom.

Deer Resistance:
Deer do not usually browse cenizo. The only disease that it seems to be susceptible to is cotton root rot, which may occur with too much irrigation.

Planting Sites:
Cenizo adapts well to sandy or clay soils, and even poor soils as long as the planting site is well drained. It should be planted in full sun in raised beds or berms to prevent root rot. Cenizo should not be planted next to or into an irrigated bed or lawn. Space plants two to three feet apart. Cenizo is hardy to 5 degrees F.

Planting Instructions:
Dig the planting hole three to five times wider than, but the same depth as the root ball in the nursery container. An irregularly shaped hole will give the roots an easier time of getting established. Carefully remove it from the container, taking care not to break the root ball. Loosen exterior roots, if root bound, and spread the roots from the edges of the root ball, being careful not to pull the roots away from the main stem of the plant. Don’t pick up the plant by its stem or trunk! Plant at the same depth as the soil in the container. Do not add any soil to the top of the root ball, but adding a thin layer of compost to the disturbed area after planting is desirable. Apply a little light pressure around the plant, just enough initially to keep the plant upright.

Watering Instructions:
Water thoroughly to promote the settling of soil around the roots. Repeat watering a few days after planting. Water deeply every 7-10 days, checking an inch or two into soil at edge of root ball to determine soil moisture. Skip a watering after a rainfall of ½ to 1.

First fall/winter:
Reduce water during fall and winter. In a “normal” year, no watering may be necessary in fall and winter, but during a dry period, monthly watering may be desirable.

Second spring and thereafter:
Water monthly only in periods of drought. Once established, Cenizo will survive with little or no supplemental irrigation.

NICE! Tip:
Cenizo is an excellent alternative to non-natives such as nandina, ligustrum, pyracantha and variegated privet. Plant cenizo with other native plants to promote a beautiful landscape that will provide a diversified native habitat for wildlife.

Look for the NICE! Plant of the Month signs and information sheets on your next visit to a participating Boerne nursery. And thank you for supporting native plants by using them in your landscapes.