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East Texas Gardening Guide

By Karen Weir-Jimerson

East Texas Gardening Guide

Welcome to Gardening in East Texas!
You live in a great climate for gardening! You have lots of sun, a good bit of rain, and a long growing season. The good news is that it means you can grow just about anything you want!

In this guide, we’ll discuss just what you need to know about gardening successfully in this part of Texas.

Your Weather
The climate in the eastern part of Texas is humid subtropical, which is more typical of the Southeast part of the US than the rest of your state. This climate zone features hot summers, and a fair amount of rain—you get more than the western side of Texas. And while your winters can be mild and cool, you can also get blasts of cold from up north. Generally, humid subtropical areas are between latitudes of 25 degrees and 40 degrees.

(Here’s a fun FYI: Humid subtropical areas in the southeastern part of the US are like climates in eastern Australia, northern India and south China.) 

Your Land
East Texas is considered Gulf Coast Plains. But the rolling hills in the north and the flat coastal plains in the south dish up dramatic climate diversity. So, let’s look at East Texas from south to north. The bottom third: South Texas to South Louisiana, it’s temperate grassland. There’s lot of small rivers so you get swampy bayous amid the forest. The top two thirds is temperate forest.

Your Rainfall
You get about 35 to 60 inches of rainfall a year.

Your Zone
The USDA Zones for East Texas range from 7b to 10a. East Texas include these cities and zones.
Austin 8b
Brownsville 10a
Corpus Christie 9b
Dallas 8a
Fort Worth 7b, 8a
Galveston 9b
Houston 9a
Laredo 9a
Longview 8a
San Antonio 8b, 9a
Tyler 8b
Waco 8b
To see your USDA Zone by town name, click here:

Your Frost Dates
The temperatures can dip below freezing and it can even snow in Texas.  Here are the largest areas in east Texas and their last frost dates. The last frost date is the average date in spring that your area could have a killing frost. A frost will kill anything that is not hardy to your USDA zone. Here are the last frost dates for some larger cities in East Texas.
Austin March 11-20
Brownsville Feb 1-10
Corpus Christie Feb 21-29
Dallas March 21-31
Fort Worth April 1-10
Galveston Feb 21-29
Houston March 11-20
Laredo March 1-10
Longview April 11-20
San Antonio March 21-31
Tyler April 11-20
Waco April 1-10
If you want to see the last frost date map for the state of Texas, click here.

Your Soil
The state of Texas has more than 1,300 different soil types. East Texas soils range from slightly sandy and acidic loam to sandy soil with clay loams. From a gardening perspective, it’s important to know that most soils in East Texas are acidic; this is great news if you want to grow plants that like acid soil, such as blueberries and azaleas. For plants less fond of acidic soil, no worries. You can adjust/correct by adding lime.

To find which amendments you may need to grow the plants you want, have your soil tested at Texas A&M University. Soil can also be improved by adding organic material such as compost. If you want to garden in containers or raised beds, fill with potting soil, which is rich in nutrients and organic materials. To learn more about the soil of Texas, click here.

East Texas Seasonal Gardening Calendar
Here’s everything you need to know: what to plant, when to plant it, how to care for it, mulching, fertilizing, watering, and more.

JANUARY
Plant cool-weather annuals.
Brighten your yard with cool-loving flowering annuals such as petunias, snapdragon, viola, pansy, and ornamental kale.

Plant fruit trees. Since the ground never freezes in East Texas, January is an ideal time to add to your orchard. Order bare-root trees (they are more cost effective!) and plant them. Water well. For northeast Texas, plant apples, apricots, figs, pears, plum, peaches, and nectarines. 

Watch for cold snaps. If the temperatures drop below 32 degrees, you need to cover tender plants.

Monitor moisture levels in soil. Water plants and lawns if there isn’t much rainfall this month.  

Prune up to shape fruit trees. Prune peaches, apricots, and plums this month—and in February—while trees are dormant.  

Start seeds indoors. Cool-weather crops, such as cabbage, broccoli, and cauliflower, can be started now to plant in later winter. Hot-weather crops, such as tomato, eggplant, and pepper can be started in late January to plant in March.

FEBRUARY
Shape up flowering trees.
Shape up summer flowering trees, such as magnolia, holly, and redbud, and fringe tree. Do not prune spring bloomers, such as spirea, azalea, and forsythia, until after they bloom. 

Plant more annual flowers. Create containers or beds using annual flowers that can take cool snaps, such as pansy, dianthus, and snapdragons.

Plant potatoes. Drop seed potato pieces into the garden or a container and cover with 3 inches of soil.

Prune and fertilize roses. Cut back dead or straggly canes for general shape up. Fertilize and mulch around plants. Hybrid tea roses can be cut back 18 to 24 inches. Wait to prune climbing roses until after their spring bloom.

Plant cool-weather veggies. Early to mid-month, sow lettuce, radish, carrots directly into the garden.

Divide perennials and bulbs. Once new foliage appears, you can dig up and divide clumps of perennials such as daylilies and bulbs, such as cannas

Looking for other things to do in the garden in February?

MARCH
Plant window boxes and containers. Use showy annual flowers to brighten up your porch and patio for spring. Angelonia, dusty miller, and violas are good options.

Prune and fertilize. After camellias and azaleas have completed blooming, clip back for general shape up. Fertilize and mulch around plants.

Divide summer-and-fall-blooming perennials. Multiply your perennials (and invigorate them!) by digging up clumps of asters, mums, and salvia. Divide into smaller clumps and replant or share with neighbors

Plant warm-weather vegetables. Plant tomatoes, peppers, squash, and corn for late spring harvests.

Plant summer-blooming bulbs. Summer flowering bulbs, such as cannas, dahlias, and gloriosa lilies, can be planted now.

Leave daffodil foliage. After narcissus flowers fade, you can remove their flowers, but leave their leaves until they are completely brown and dried. The leaves help build the blooms for next year’s flowers.

Looking for other things to do in the garden in March? 

APRIL

Prune climbing roses. After your climbers have bloomed, you can trim them back or reshape them.

Fertilize roses. To keep roses blooming all summer, begin fertilizing them now and continue every month until September. 

Add warm-weather annuals to the mix.
As the weather heats up, replace cool-weather annuals such as snapdragons and viola with annuals that stand up to heat, such as coleus, marigolds, and petunias.

Plant tropical bulbs. Caladiums and calla lilies can go into the garden this month. Add these beauties around the entryway of your home to welcome guests.

Move houseplants outdoors. Indoor plants, such as snake plant and majesty palms welcome fresh air and rain. Place plants in a shaded spot so they don’t get burned. Learn more about summering houseplants outdoors. 

Plant vinca. Waiting until April is best for planting vinca (periwinkle). Setting plants out too early can result in a fungal blight. Mulch to help keep plants healthy.

Add more warm-weather crops. Plant herbs, tomatoes, and peppers for summer salsas.

Grow up. Tropical vines such as mandevilla are ideal for patio containers. Learn more about mandevilla.

Watch for pests. Mites and thrips like warm weather. And tomato horn worms may be looking for a meal. Oleander caterpillars may appear (on oleanders). Inspect plants for interlopers and treat with appropriate remedy for that particular pest. Not all insects are bad though; learn the difference between good and bad bugs.

Looking for other things to do in the garden in April? 

MAY
Add lantana to your landscape. As Texas weather heats up, lantana launches into bloom. This perennial loves summer heat and sun. It flowers from late spring through first frost.

Plant an herb garden. Basil, cilantro, and dill seeds can be sown or seedlings planted.

Supplement moisture. Keep beds and containers well-watered as the temperatures rise. Check irrigation heads to make sure shrubs and other plantings are getting water.

Plant heat-loving annuals. As the temperatures rise, so will colorful annuals. Angelonia, salvia, and zinnia can take the heat. Check out the Shades of Summer collection.

Add color to shady areas. Impatiens, coleus, and begonia all love shaded spots in your yard.

Clean up dead in trees and shrubs. Clip out dead limbs and branches to neaten the appearance of the plants.

Looking for other things to do in the garden in May? 

JUNE

Plant palms in containers. Add palms to decks and patios. Easy-care majesty palms excel outdoors in summer’s hot temperatures.   

Add perennials to the landscape. Sun-loving perennials, such as coneflowers, sunflowers, and ornamental grasses add long-term color to your yard.

Add bright color. Bright annuals stand up in beds and borders. Try flame-colored celosia, hot pink portulaca, and eye-catching red-and-green coleus.

Plant mums for fall bloom. Plan ahead for color. Mums bloom in a wide variety of colors and flower forms.

Mulch! The best way to help conserve moisture in your landscape is to mulch around plants. Use organic mulches such as pine bark, pine needles, or grass clippings.

Looking for other things to do in the garden in June? 

JULY
Check irrigation. The hot July temps in East Texas makes it necessary to keep up moisture levels in containers and borders. But don’t overwater this month. Install a rain shut-off device to conserve water. Discover easy drought-resistant perennials. 

Kill weeds in vegetable beds. Get ready for fall crops by solarizing garden beds (in the sun) with clear plastic. It takes about 4 weeks to entirely kill weeds, pests, and diseases—just in time for a healthy fall garden.

Harvest veggies. Pick and use your squash and tomatoes. Picking fruit encourages more growth.  

Rotate crops. When replanting vegetables, don’t use the same spot for the same crop. By planting in a new place, you can avoid soil-borne diseases that can build up.  

Plant color. Infuse your summer garden with tropical color. Add firebush (Hamelia), allamanda, mandevilla, Mexican heather, and hibiscus. 

Prune hydrangeas. If you want to shape up your hydrangeas, clip now after they bloom. Flower buds form in later summer/early fall, so if you prune after that, you won’t have flowers next year.

Looking for other things to do in the garden in July? 

AUGUST
Water, water, water. One of the hottest months is East Texas is August. Water plants in the early morning to avoid loss of moisture due to evaporation. Use a drip irrigation system to keep water low, closer to plant roots. 

Color up. Add heat-tolerant annuals to containers and window boxes for a summer pick-me up. Try gaillardia, lantana, and pentas. Here are more heat-tolerant flowering options.

Plant a perennial herb garden. Rosemary, ginger, bay laurel can all be planted in August’s sultry weather.

Add more heat-loving veggies. You still have several months of hot weather, so tuck in more tomatoes, lima beans, cucumbers, and eggplants.

And don’t forget cool-crops. In mid-August, start Brussel sprouts, cabbage, carrot, and other cool-loving vegetables for later harvests.

Nip and tuck the garden. Deadhead and trim back leggy growth to make your August garden neater and trimmer.

Pinch back mums. A little pinch now will lead to bigger bushier mum plants.

Looking for other things to do in the garden in August? 


SEPTEMBER
Collect seeds. If you are a seed saver, now is the time to harvest dried seed heads and save seeds for next spring.

Boost fall color. Add showy annuals to beds and borders to add fresh color. Ageratum, zinnia, and begonias are reliable and beautiful choices.

Add plants for hummingbirds. Hummingbirds are on the move and looking for nectar-rich blooms such as trumpet vine, salvia, and bee balm.

Plant bulbs. Now’s the time to plant spring-blooming bulbs such as narcissus.  

Tip back roses. To stimulate a new growth, cut back a quarter of the growth and add a little fertilizer. You may be rewarded with a flush of fall color.

Add perennials for shade. It’s a great time to add shade-loving perennials to beds and borders. See some easy choices. 

Keep an eye on weeds. Don’t let weeds get the best of your garden.

Looking for other things to do in the garden in September? 

OCTOBER
Set out cool-loving annuals. Say hello to pansies, kale, snapdragons, violas, and calendulas. Again!

Add plants for migrating butterflies. Spicebush Swallowtail, Monarch, Gulf Fritillary, and Giant Swallowtail butterflies are all on the move. Plant plumbago, pentas, lantana, and salvia for nectar meals. Add host plants for the butterflies you want to attract. Learn how to plant a butterfly garden. 

Plant evergreen shrubs. If you like to trim holly branches for the holidays, plant a couple of these red-berried, glossy leafed beauties.  

Mulch some more. Add a thick layer—2 to 3 inches—around perennials, shrubs and trees to help maintain moisture levels. Mulch makes beds look better too.

Plant herb seeds. Can you ever have enough herbs? Plant annual herbs such as cilantro and basil for quick and flavorful additions to salads and soups.

Make up Halloween containers. Tuck ornamental kale and mums into containers for porches and patios to give an autumnal feel. If you planted pumpkins or gourds, add them to baskets and tabletops.

Looking for other things to do in the garden in October? 

NOVEMBER
Add cool-weather annuals.
Brighten up your entryway with a swath of pansies or violas. These cool-weather beauties will last all winter.

Plant mums in containers. Moveable feasts of color, mums add dashing color wherever you place them. Add them to containers with ornamental kales and little gourds and pumpkins.

Plant bulbs for the holidays. If you love those trumpet-shape amaryllis blooms for the holidays plant the big bulbs now.

Plant a vitamin garden. Cool weather, antioxidant-rich greens can be grown now: kale, spinach, arugula.

Water less. Cooler temps mean your garden needs less water. Adjust irrigation schedules.

Plant flowering trees and shrubs. November’s cooler temperatures are ideal for planting camellias and azaleas.

Bring houseplants indoors. Before cold weather sets in, bring summering houseplants back indoors.

Looking for other things to do in the garden in November? 

DECEMBER
Clean up garden beds. Remove spent vegetable plants, clip up perennials, and change out annuals to freshen up before the New Year.

Check houseplants for pests. Inspect houseplants for hitchhiking pests if they summered outdoors. Wipe leaves clean. Repot if rootbound.

Add holiday color. Add traditional live greenery to your porches and dining rooms this month. Ivy, rosemary trees, Christmas cactus, poinsettia, Norfolk Island pine, and orchids all make festive holiday décor.

Plant trees and shrubs. December’s cooler temperatures make an ideal time to add landscape elements to your yard.

Looking for other things to do in the garden in December? 

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