What is a Cenizo?

Vasanth S.

A cenizo is a shrub that is classified within the Scrophulariaceae plant family. It is native to Texas, New Mexico, and northern Mexico. The shrub features hairy leaves and lavender flowers. Cenizo is commonly used by landscapers since it is drought and heat tolerant. Generally, this shrub is maintenance free once established, but it can be damaged by cotton root rot.

Cenizos are native to northern Mexico.
Cenizos are native to northern Mexico.

The scientific name for cenizo is Leucophyllum frutescens. It is commonly known as Texas sage, Texas ranger, or purple sage. It is also referred to as the barometer bush because its flowers generally bloom when there is an increase in humidity or soil moisture.

Cenizo, or barometer bush, can sense changes in humidity and soil moisture.
Cenizo, or barometer bush, can sense changes in humidity and soil moisture.

This shrub's natural habitat include rocky slopes and calcareous soils. It populates the plains of the Rio Grande and the western edge of Edwards Plateau. Cenizo is also grown west of the Pecos River.

Generally, cenizo grows about 8 feet (2.4 m) in height and spreads a similar length. The foliage consists of silvery-green leaves that are about an inch (2.5 cm) long. This shrub has a compact, dense form.

The flowers of the Texas sage range in color from violet to purple and are bell shaped. They grow about 1 inch (2.5 cm) in length and width and generally bloom in the summer and fall. The shrub usually flowers after a rainstorm.

To grow the Texas sage successfully, it is suggested to plant it in an area that has adequate sunlight and alkaline soil that is well draining. If planted in shaded areas, the shrub tends to spread out, or become less compact, and produce fewer flowers. Over watering or planting the shrub in poorly draining soil can reduce growth.

It is recommended to plant the Texas sage in raised beds if the region is prone to heavy rainfall or has poorly draining soil. If the soil is acidic, adding dolomitic limestone to the ground can raise the pH. Adding organic amendments to the soil also improves soil condition.

A common problem encountered when growing Texas sage in less-than-ideal soil is cotton root rot caused by a soil-borne fungus that attacks the roots of the shrub. Symptoms include wilted leaves and decaying branches. The entire root system of the shrub can be damaged, preventing the shrub from absorbing nutrients from the soil. The best way to prevent the spread of the fungus is to plant disease-resistant varieties around the infected plant.

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