Winter Storm Survivors

By Jan Brick
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Red Bud, Live Oak, Bradford Pear, Crape Myrtle, Holly, Hawthorne, Red Tip Photinia, Magnolias—all are “old reliables” that came through the recent snow and ice storm with barely a pause in their growth. Unfortunately, countless others were lost and are too numerous to list, but there were some surprises as well. A number of these survivors certainly merit an honorable mention and should be considered to replace some of those that recently succumbed to the frigid winter.


Empress Tree

In the winter, the branches are covered with furry, pea sized buds that will explode into purple blooms at the first sign of spring. The fragrance is a cross between gardenia and jasmine. In summer, the tree forms a dense canopy of huge tropical leaves measuring nearly a foot across.

This is an easy-to-grow flowering tree with no significant insect or disease problems, and it tolerates drought and almost any kind of soil. One of the most environmentally beneficial trees in the world, the Empress Tree’s large leaves act as giant air filters, pulling pollution out of the air at a remarkable rate then releasing high amounts of beneficial oxygen.

Please keep in mind that the Empress Tree is, in fact, one of the fastest growing trees in the world. It can grow up to 20 feet tall in its first year, and reaches maturity in just 10 years. Be prepared for this rampant growth and plan wisely where you plant this tree.

Texas Ebony Tree

Part of the Mimosa family, this tree is an attractive landscape piece that is underutilized and underappreciated. A medium-sized shade tree with a dense canopy, the Ebony is native to Texas with a dark mahogany wood in shades of brownish purple.

It is a remarkably drought-tolerant evergreen that features cream-colored clusters of blooms produced continuously from late spring to fall, drawing the full attention of bees and birds. The Texas Ebony tolerates almost all soil conditions, and they are known to suffer few problems with pests or disease.

Placeholder imageVitex

It blooms from late spring to early fall with long, upright spikes of pleasantly fragrant flowers in shades of pink, lilac, and white that attract butterflies and bees. Also called the “chaste tree,” the Vitex is a native of China, but it has a long history in the U.S.

It was first cultivated in 1670, and since that time it has become naturalized throughout the Southern part of the country. Many southerners use it as a replacement for lilacs.



Ornamental as well as practical, these become excellent lawn specimen trees with whirls of glossy foliage and a naturally attractive shape. Its size is well-suited to home landscapes with large clusters of attractive fruit that stand out against the dark green, tropical foliage, adding to the tree’s visual appeal.


This tree has large round very sweet fruit; both skin and fruit are edible. A heavy bearer of fruit that is well known to survive cold temperatures, Kumquat trees can also be grown in containers.


Relatively cold-hardy compared to other citrus, the fruit may freeze at 32 degrees, but the branches and leaves of a Tangerine tree can normally withstand temperatures of 21 degrees. The leaves may curl up but will return to normal once the weather warms.

Valencia Orange

These trees need full sun exposure of six to eight hours a day, and the soil should be fertile and well-drained. To ensure healthy growth, water regularly with a slow-water drip, soaker, or bubble hose, and feed three times a year with a specially formulated citrus tree fertilizer.



This species was introduced into cultivation at the beginning of the 18th Century and has since naturalized throughout lower elevations and coastal areas since these environments mimic their native South African habitat.

They reproduce slowly by either bulb division or seeds. Plant in fall and early spring for blooms from late December through June.


The grand crinum, crinum lily, spider lily, cemetery lily, and swamp lily are large, perennial, clump-forming herbs from Asia and Africa that have naturalized along the coastlines of Florida and Texas. The foliage of the crinum resemble that of amaryllis though with a coarser appearance. Through summer and fall months, blooms appear in shades of white, pink, red, striped, and multicolored.

The crinum is a true “pass-along” treasure only seen occasionally in plant nurseries. This long-lived gem requires little care and may be seen in abandoned sites and cemeteries, totally neglected but thriving and flourishing.

Tuberose Begonia

This begonia grows from bulbous parts, tubers (bulbs), rhizomes (underground stems), or fibrous root systems (mat-like growths) that store nutrients and water. Propagate by cutting sections of the root and planting in prepared soil.

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Bird’s Nes t Fern

Placeholder imageThis fern is native to tropical areas like Asia, Australia, and Hawaii where they are often found in palm trees. It comes in a wide variety of colors and textures, although it is most regularly found with large, simple, tropical-like fronds that are light green in color with crinkled or wavy leaves rising from a central rosette.

The bird’s nest fern prefers medium to bright indirect light and regular watering every two weeks. Avoid watering directly into the plant but water around the plant instead.

Bridal Wreath

A spirea that requires little care, this medium-sized shrub with arching branches features a cascading waterfall of thick sprays of white double blooms.


Occasionally called a trumpet flower, it is a semi-green climbing vine with trumpet-shaped blooms that occur in clusters of orange and yellow from mid-spring through late summer. The Crossvine is a favorite of hummingbirds.

Knock out Roses

Shrubby in form with clusters of flowers that bloom continually through December, this rose can reach up to four feet in height. They are largely free of blackspot and other fungal diseases.

Often called “knocks,” these shrubs bloom in successive cycles with a short rest in between. Fertilize with a good organic rose formula, remembering to discontinue use of fertilizer at the end of July or early August when they prepare for dormancy.

Confederate Rose

This large shrub from China has adapted to the southern states, but it is actually not a rose at all, rather a member of the hibiscus family. Oversized leaves and a curious cycle of blooming are indigenous characteristics of this plant.

The flowers open white but over the course of several days change color to eventually become pink and finally deep rose in hue.

Leopard Plant

An evergreen, clump-forming perennial that features unusual but stunning foliage and bright yellow flowers in fall months, the Leopard Plant is native to Japan and Korea. Bees and butterflies pollinate the blooms and the resulting seeds may be sown for continued plant production.

Preferring rich moist soil and part sun to shade, it will thrive with consistent watering and is rarely bothered by insects or disease.