Garden View: Grow a bountiful bee garden


Plants and crops depend on bees and pollinators to reproduce. So pollinators should be an important part of every garden. South Texas has an abundance of plant species that will support such pollinators as bees.

The following plants are three very versatile shrubs, or small trees, that can be found at local nurseries and at some of our nature centers:

>> Tamaulipan fiddlewood, or Negrito (Citherexylum berlandieri) is one of my favorite plants. It can be shaped as a small tree or left as a tall, dense shrub. It usually reaches 6 to 10 feet in height and has clusters of tiny white flowers that begin in February and are present through the summer. The flowers are followed by clusters of bright orange fruit that turns black as it ripens. Fiddlewood responds well to trimming so you can have a grouping of little “trees” or trim it as a dense hedge, capable of hiding most anything up to about 6 feet. Fiddlewood provides nectar for insects and berries for the birds.

>> Texas Baby-Bonnets (Coursetia axillaris) are a lovely South Texas, thornless native shrub. Again, it can be trimmed as a small tree, or left to its natural, dense shrub. It is commonly found at 6 to 8 feet in height and about 6 feet wide. Branches are filled with tiny pink, “baby-bonnet,” shaped flowers. This plant is a favorite of bees. It will tolerate partial shade and requires well drained soil. Baby bonnets are in bloom right now in the Rio Grande Valley and will bloom again in early fall.

>> Texas Kidneywood, or Vara Dulce (Eysenhardtia texana) is also a dense large shrub with clusters of fragrant white flowers. It reaches heights of 6 to 10 feet and will bloom after a rain. Kidneywood is also thornless, will tolerate partial shade, and grows quickly. Before purchasing, you may like to visit one of our birding centers or state parks and smell its flower, as some folks do not like its distinctive aroma. This is a favorite of bees and butterflies.

All three of these plants require little to no maintenance. And, once they are established (about one year after planting), you will find that they are very drought tolerant, requiring irrigation during summer (once or twice a month) and during drought conditions. Both Baby-Bonnets and Kidneywood are in the bean family, so the shrubs do produce small pods that are not a large mess. If you would like more information on these plants, go to the webpage of the Native Plant Project at and click on “Handbooks” and select “shrubs” category. You can also visit the Valley Nature Center in Weslaco or our birding centers to see these plants up close.

Now, go install that bountiful bee garden.

Barbara Storz is a local horticulturist. You can listen to her gardening program at 7 a.m. Saturdays on 710 KURV Radio, or contact her by e-mail at