There's a saying that everything's bigger in Texas: It is the second most populous state in the United States and the biggest of the 48 contiguous states. With nearly 270,000 square miles, it also has a lot of diverse landscaping opportunities and challenges. Before you start to garden in the Lone Star state, here are some basics to know about Texas landscaping.
Texas can be divided into eight regions based on general climate, soil, and moisture conditions; each is designated by a letter of the alphabet, says Dr. Mengmeng Gu, the Earth-Kind landscaping specialist for Texas AgriLife Extension. "These 8 regions take the combinations of precipitation, temperature, and soil type into consideration to help gardeners make decisions on plant selection and gardening," Dr. Gu says.
The Texas landscaping sections include:
A: The Panhandle and High Plains. This includes both Amarillo and Lubbock and encompasses the upper northwest section of the state. Much of the state's cotton and corn are grown here, and it is known for windy conditions.
B: North and Central Texas. Lodged between the Panhandle and the northeast corner of Texas, this region of Texas landscaping also borders Oklahoma. The area is incredibly hot and humid.
C: Northeast and East Texas. This Texas landscaping section includes Tyler, and is also hot and humid.
D: West Texas. Much different in landscape from the northeast section, west Texas is hot and dry with lots of arid areas.
E: Upper Rio Grande. Bordering Mexico, this section of Texas's valley is also hot and humid.
F: Hill Country and Central Coast. Stretching into the state's midsection, this area includes the capital, Austin, but also stretches to the Gulf of Mexico.
G: Southeast Texas. This small section of Texas includes Houston and Galveston and also borders the Gulf of Mexico.
H: Rio Grande Valley. The southernmost corner of the state typically benefits from abundant water, so much so that it is a great place for citrus growing. However, the temperatures there are typically subtropical.
As with many states, precipitation -- too much or too little -- is a huge issue in Texas. "Within Texas, it's the most abundant in east Texas," Dr. Gu says. "As you move toward central and west Texas, it gradually decreases."
In addition, the Texas landscaping regions that are closer to Louisiana have a huge annual rainfall -- over 50 inches, Dr. Gu says. Across the state that decreases: In Dallas, it's around 42 inches; in Austin, it's 35; in Lubbock, it's 25 inches; and in El Paso, the average is less than 18 inches per year. The USDA hardiness Zones also range from 6 to 10. That means extended periods of freezing temperatures in Texas landscaping section A and subtropical pockets in the most southern regions. "Even so, every county is different with little pockets and microclimate differences," Dr. Gu says.
Gardeners in Texas continue to face water pressures and restrictions and temperature extremes. That's why xeriscaping, which focuses on native plants that are more adapted to the climate, has been a resource for Texas landscaping. Horticulturalists have developed Earth-Kind Landscaping, as well as an online tool at Texas A&M University that offers a plant selector that guides gardeners based on region, type of plant, and sun/shade. Check out the online tool for Texas landscaping.