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What plants can survive Texas winter?


The Texas winter can be quite harsh on plants that are not accustomed to the occasionally freezing temperatures and icy winds. However, there are many beautiful plants that can withstand and even thrive during the coldest Texas winter months. The key is choosing varieties that can handle the dramatic shifts between warm and freezing weather that Texas is known for.

What causes Texas winters to be so extreme?

Texas has an extremely variable climate, which leads to unpredictable and intense winter weather. The state is situated in the middle of the continent, far from moderating ocean influences. This means wintertime temperatures can swing wildly from one week to the next as cold polar air masses invade from the north. When this arctic air interacts with moisture from the Gulf of Mexico, damaging ice storms can occur.

Texas also frequently experiences winter warm ups, with mild southerly winds causing temperatures to rise above normal. But the warm respites are usually brief before the next freeze arrives. These frequent fluctuations between freezing and thawing are hard for many plants to endure.

Winter Hardiness Zones in Texas

Due to its enormous size, Texas encompasses several USDA winter hardiness zones:

Zone Average Coldest Winter Temperature
8a 10 to 15°F
8b 15 to 20°F
9a 20 to 25°F
9b 25 to 30°F

The northern half of Texas, including the Panhandle, North Central, and Northeast regions, experiences the coldest winters in zones 8a and 8b. Central Texas falls into zone 8b, while far South Texas along the coast is a balmy zone 9b.

When choosing winter hardy plants, pay attention to which zone you live in. Pick varieties rated at least one zone colder to ensure survivability.

Best Annuals for Surviving Winter

Annual flowers and herbs must be replanted each year, but some are tough enough to overwinter in Texas with a little help:

Pansies – Often the star winter annual due to their wide, cheerful blooms. Give them afternoon shade in zone 8 and mulch well.

Ornamental Kale – Adds unique texture and color to winter beds with ruffled blue-green or white foliage. Tolerates light freezes.

Calendulas – Produce bright orange and yellow blooms on short stems during cool weather. Give shelter from harsh winds.

Parsley – Provides fresh flavor and holds up to zone 8 winters. Cut back and mulch in freezing weather.

Snapdragons – Available in dwarf and tall varieties, both bloom prolifically in cool conditions. Best in zone 9 or protected spots.

Best Perennials for Surviving Winter

Perennials regrow each spring and will come back year after year if properly selected:

Lantana – A heat-loving Texas superstar with clusters of brightly colored flowers. Most varieties are root hardy and return each spring.

Roses – Choose winter-hardy shrub rose varieties like Knock Out®, Drift®, and Oso Easy®. Give extra mulch protection if temperatures drop below 15°F.

Sages – Sturdy plants include garden sage, Mexican bush sage, mealycup sage, and more. Prune back by half in late winter to encourage lush new growth.

Daylilies – Reliable perennials that need little care to flourish. Established clumps tolerate freezing weather but appreciate mulch.

Lavender – English lavender does best with good drainage and hot summers. Survives zone 8 winters and appreciates afternoon shade.

Coneflowers – Extremely tough native wildflowers that shrug off icy winds. Wait to cut back spent blooms until spring.

Gaillardia – Also called blanket flowers, they produce sunny daisy-like blooms. Excellent drought tolerance makes them ideal for Texas gardens.

Best Shrubs for Surviving Winter

Shrubs form the backbone of winter landscapes in Texas:

Yaupon Holly – A versatile large shrub with glossy evergreen foliage and red berries that attract birds. Does well in zones 8-9.

Nandina – Also known as heavenly bamboo even though it’s not a bamboo. Offers striking red foliage in fall that persists through winter.

Wax Myrtle – A tough, large Texas native shrub with wispy leaves and decorative gray berries. Tolerates salt spray, drought, and cold.

Barberry – Thorny shrubs with vivid reddish-purple leaves that retain color in winter. Prefers well-drained soil and full sun.

boxwood – The quintessential formal hedge, boxwood holds up to shearing extremely well. Slow growing and requires excellent drainage.

Red Yucca – Stately clumping succulent with sword-like leaves. Blooms tall spikes of bell-shaped flowers. Thrives in rock gardens.

Silverado Sage – A tidy silver-leafed shrub that needs no pruning to maintain its rounded shape. Handles winter just fine.

Best Trees for Surviving Winter

Trees provide vertical interest and valuable shade during the hottest Texas summers:

Cedar Elm – A classic, hardy Texas native with an iconic vase-shape. Attractive peeling bark and yellow fall color. Withstands drought and winter cold.

Pecan – Another tough native tree valued for its delicious nuts. Majestic form with enormous sprawling limbs. Transplants easily.

Crape Myrtle – Available in petite to tree-sized varieties, crape myrtles produce colorful summer blooms. Leave seed pods on the tree over winter.

Texas Red Oak – A stalwart shade tree grown statewide. Produces pretty reddish-purple fall foliage. Tolerates clay soil and dry periods.

Mesquite – Technically a large shrub but often trained as a picturesque multi-trunk tree. Feathery foliage provides dappled shade.

Mexican Plum – A small ornamental tree smothered in fragrant white flowers in early spring, followed by tart purple plums. Lovely year-round.


The unpredictable Texas winter can play havoc with gardens, but many beautiful plants prove themselves up to the challenge. Choose varieties rated for colder hardiness zones, provide winter protection as needed, and get ready to enjoy their resilience when warmer weather returns. With the right selections, it’s possible to create stunning landscapes that shine throughout the year.