Cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens) is probably familiar to many North Texans as this West Texas-native shrub is widely used in local landscapes. And with good reason: It is beautiful and is well suited to our region.
Cenizo has 1/2- to 1-inch long, tubular, five-lobed, medium-purple flowers that bloom from summer into fall. Typically, rains trigger cenizo to flower prolifically. Several cultivars with color variations exist, including white-flowered ‘Alba,’ lavender-blue blooming ‘Rain Cloud,’ pinkish-flowering ‘Green Cloud’ with green foliage, and lavender-blooming ‘Sierra Bouquet’ with whiter leaves. After flowering, seeds form in valved capsules.
Full sun is best for cenizo; it will tolerate part-sun. It must have well-drained soil and should not be fertilized. Rich soil inhibits blooming and abundant moisture will shorten its lifespan. Cenizo may be grown in raised beds amended with crushed rocks. Once established, cenizo is maintenance-free and does not need supplemental water. Like many other native Texas plants, it will not tolerate “wet feet” and may rot over a wet winter.
Cenizo is a good choice for xeriscaping. Use it for foundation planting, hedges, a windbreak barrier or a screen. Cenizo can be sheared into a hedge, although light pruning to maintain a more natural shape may result in a healthier shrub. Cenizo can be grown in big pots as a large accent species. It is not susceptible to pests or diseases, except for cotton root rot, which well-drained soil discourages. It may be propagated through seed or cuttings. Cenizo is said to be deer resistant. It is the larval host for the Theona checkerspot and calleta silkmoth butterflies.
Cenizo’s many common names allude to its Texas origins, habit and flower color: Texas sage, Texas ranger, Texas rain sage, wild lilac, purple sage, senisa and cenicilla. The Leucophyllum genus name comes from Greek: leucos (white) phyllon (leaf), referring to this woody bush’s silvery, gray-green 1-inch leaves. The Latin species name frutescens means shrubby.
Cenizo is in the figwort family and is not a true sage. In nature, cenizo is found in calcareous, rocky soils.
It is very heat-tolerant and is cold-tolerant to 5 degrees.
It grows up to 6 feet tall and 6 feet wide, with occasional specimens reaching 8 feet tall.
It has a loosely branched form and is evergreen, but may lose some leaves in the winter. Consider using Cenizo instead of non-native photinia and nandina species.
Good companion plants for Cenizo include other xeric species, especially those with complementary growth habits. These include blackfoot daisy (Melampodium leucanthum), zexmenia (Wedelia texana), mealy blue sage (Salvia farinacea), milkweeds like antelope horn (Asclepias asperula), gayfeather (Liatris mucronata) and four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa).
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; Shades of Green Nursery in Frisco; and Schmitz Garden Center in Flower Mound.
Thank you for using native plants in your landscapes.