Leucophyllum means having white leaves and frutescens means shrubby. This is entirely accurate, for this is a shrubby plant with whitish leaves. It is also a shrub that gets massive amounts of flowers, which depending on the cultivar, can be purple, pink, or white. This plant can be an attractive addition to the xeriscape or transition garden.
Leucophyllum fruitescens has many common names, including Texas ranger, Texas sage, Texas rain sage, barometer bush, cenizo, silverleaf, and ash-leaf. The plant is not a sage (Salvia ssp.) but it is native to southern Texas and northern Mexico. The names Texas rain sage and barometer bush come from the fact that the plant often blooms immediately following rain. Cenizo means ash colored, which describes the leaves, as do the names silverleaf and ash-leaf.
Texas rangers are in the Snapdragon Family (Scrophulariaceae).
Texas rangers are medium-sized shrubs, typically to 8 feet tall and wide. They are covered with small gray or gray-green leaves. Plants are usually evergreen but some cultivars may go deciduous during the coldest winters. The flowers are usually less than an inch wide, but are so abundant in number that they put on a beautiful show of purple, pink, or white blooms. Blooming is from summer into fall and usually quickly follows rain or even high humidity. Each bloom cycle does not last particularly long but plants can bloom repeatedly.
Texas rangers are recommended for USDA zones 8-11 or Sunset western zones 7-24, H1, and H2, though blooming is not reliable where the summers are not hot. This plant is widely used in the desert cities of the American southwest. However, this is not a plant whose use needs to be restricted to the southwest or the classic desert. Dave's Garden members have had success with this plant in Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico, North Carolina, Puerto Rico, and of course Texas. In desert climates, the shrubs can be planted at any time of year.
Plants should be grown in full sun, in well draining soil, and with little to moderate water. Over-watered plants will die out and under-watered plants will drop many leaves and look scraggly. The species is tolerant of alkaline soils, heat, and wind. The shrubs can be trimmed as a formal hedge but are reported to be healthier if left in a more natural growth form. From an aesthetic standpoint, the less pruning, the better. Those who find Texas rangers overused in landscaping are usually referring to the overly-groomed specimens. However, an occasional heavy annual pruning, if necessary, is acceptable and old, leggy plants can be rejuvenated by cutting them back almost to the ground. If space is an issue, it is better to grow one of the smaller cultivars than to repeatedly have to trim a larger plant.
Below is a list of Texas ranger cultivars. All grow to 8 feet unless otherwise noted.
'Alba' - gray foliage and white flowers
'Bertstar Dwarf' (aka 'Silverado' TM) - gray foliage and light purple flowers, to 4 feet tall (possibly higher)
'Compacta' - gray foliage and magenta-pink flowers, to 5 feet tall and wide
'Greado' (aka 'Desperado' ®) - gray foliage and light purple flowers, to 5 feet tall and wide
'Green Cloud' TM - green-gray foliage and magenta-pink flowers
'San Jose' - gray foliage and light purple flowers, to 5 feet tall and wide
'White Cloud' TM - gray foliage and white flowers
Texas ranger is used as a traditional herbal remedy. Foliage is used to make a tea that is to be taken at the first sign of cold or fever. It is reported to be safe, moderately effective, and tasty. As always, consult your own doctor for medical advice.
These Texas rangers are blooming during a humid and very hot spell.
The Texas ranger is a classic xeriscape plant but it can also be used in the transition zone between xeriscape landscaping and conventional landscaping. It can also be used in drier and better-draining areas in a conventional landscape. Where winters are relatively mild and watering not excessive, it is a rugged and attractive plant. When other plants are looking tired from a long summer, Texas ranger comes to the rescue with striking blooms during some of the most oppressive weather of summer. The rest of the time it is an attractive neutral background for plants of other shades of green.
About Kelli Kallenborn
I have lived in California for 20 years and really enjoy the climate and all of the varied natural ecosystems.