Cenizo in bloom after the rain


September 06, 2020

Praise be to the rain gods, who delivered 2 inches of rain Thursday and Friday and broke Austin’s month-long heat wave. Rain lilies and oxblood lilies are waving their flower flags in celebration, but the prima donna of rain-celebrating plants has to be cenizo (Leucophyllum frutescens).

This native Texas shrub with tiny, silver-gray leaves and supreme drought and heat tolerance can go unnoticed for long stretches — even when sprawling across a neighbor’s mailbox. Then the weather shifts and — boom! — the entire shrub lights up with violet flowers.

Cenizo goes by many names, including Texas ranger and Texas sage. But my favorite is barometer bush, so-called because flowering is triggered by rain or even a change in the humidity level just before it rains. Watering cannot trigger a bloom event, so don’t bother. And besides, cenizo needs no supplemental watering once established.

All cenizo asks for is plenty of sun and heat and to be left alone. It prefers alkaline soil and grows well in the thin caliche soil of west Austin.

Bees love the flowers and spelunk in them as soon as they appear.

Check out her full pollen baskets.

Like the bees, I always have to stop and admire the showstopping bloom of this otherwise understated shrub whenever it rains.

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