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Becca Dickstein / Native Roots

Zexmenia adds lively color

Zexmenia (Wedelia texana, formerly Zexmenia hispida) is dependable for summer color and is easy to maintain.

Also called orange zexmenia, it has 1- to 1.5-inch yellow-orange composite flowers from late April though November. The seeds are similar to sunflower seeds, but much smaller. It is a perennial native to Central and West Texas south to Mexico.

Although this member of the daisy family is evergreen in the southern part of its range, in North Texas, it dies back to the ground each winter. Zexmenia usually reaches 1 1/2 to 2 feet tall and up to 2 feet wide, although specimens can reach 3 feet tall.

It has 2- to 3-inch-long, narrow ovate/lanceolate gray-green leaves that are rough to the touch. The leaves may be coarsely toothed or slightly lobed.

Zexmenia can be propagated by cuttings or by seed.

Zexmenia should be planted in sun or partial to dappled shade. It can also grow in shade, but it will not flower as much. In full sun, zexmenia is upright; if planted in partial shade, it may recline like a ground cover.

It is a larval host for the bordered patch butterfly and attracts other butterflies. Birds eat its seeds. The rough leaves make it deer and grasshopper resistant.

Consider planting zexmenia as a tall ground cover or in mass instead of Asian jasmine, English ivy or vinca. It also works well in a border by itself or with other native yellow flowering perennials like sundrops (calylophus), lance-leaf coreopsis and Missouri primrose, or with purple-blooming Texas natives like prairie verbena.

Zexmenia may be pruned to about half its height by July to reshape it or for fuller growth, but this is not necessary. In winter, cut it back to the ground.

Zexmenia is adaptable to most soils as long as it has good drainage. Like many Texas natives, zexmenia may need supplemental water during its first growing season. After it is established, it will thrive on existing rainfall and is very drought tolerant.

Look for the NICE! Plant of the Season signs and information sheets on your next visit to a participating North Texas nursery. Participating nurseries include Four Seasons Nursery, Meador Nursery and Painted Flower Farm, all in Denton, Schmitz Garden Center in Flower Mound and Shades of Green Nursery in Frisco.

Thank you for using native plants in your landscapes.

BECCA DICKSTEIN, a member of the Trinity Forks Chapter of the Native Plant Society of Texas, is on the University of North Texas biological sciences faculty.