Top 5 Plants for an Organic Garden

An organic gardener uses native and drought-tolerant plants to create a wildlife-friendly garden.
Dramatic Agave Fronds

Dramatic Agave Fronds

John Dromgoole is a native Texan who caught the gardening bug at an early age and made it his life's work. Now he's an organic-gardening expert, nurseryman and the host of a radio talk show on gardening. He's so busy keeping the fires of his gardening passion raging that he doesn't have time to garden at home, so his nursery is his garden. He has eight acres of vegetable, butterfly, herb and drought-tolerant gardens. He even has a labyrinth made of low-growing sedge near a meditation teepee.

John says that compost is nature's way of healing the earth with beneficial fungi. He relies heavily on Texas native plants in his butterfly and xeriscape gardens. John knows the needs of butterflies, bees and birds, and his garden devoted to them has plants that will make them feel right at home. Grasses provide shelter for butterflies in stormy weather, and a small water feature placed near the red and orange flowers serves as a drinking fountain for the thirsty, winged visitors.

Here are a few of John's favorite plants:

American agave (Agave americana var. striata)
The plant: A striking architectural accent, this variegated American agave offers glaucous blue-gray, swordlike leaves irregularly striped in creamy white. The rigid foliage has jagged leaf margins. American agave grows to six feet tall and as wide.
How to use it: Excellent for low-water gardens and containers.
Cultivation: American agave does well in full to partial sun and average to dry soil. Note: This plant has spines or sharp edges so should be handled with care. Drought tolerant. Hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 10b.

Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha)
The plant: A late-season bloomer, Mexican bush sage produces velvety purple to purple-and-white flowers. The plant grows up to two to three feet tall and as wide and has slightly fuzzy foliage. Lasts until frost. Hummingbirds and butterflies love this sage.
How to use it: Place in the middle to the back of a perennial border, in containers, or as a cut flower.
Cultivation: Mexican bush sage does best in full sun but can tolerate some afternoon shade. Cut back in midsummer to keep plants looking tidy. Drought tolerant. Hardy in USDA Zones 8 to 10.

Pentas (Pentas lanceolata)
The plant: Pentas are grown as a summer annual in most climates and as a perennial or shrub in warmer climates. Clusters of tubular, star-shaped flowers rise above clean, green foliage. Flowers come in shades of pink, purple, red and white. Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Depending on cultivar, plants are one to three feet tall and almost as wide.
How to use it: Use as a bedding plant in the front of a perennial border. Also good in containers and wildlife-friendly plantings. Excellent cut flowers.
Cultivation: Give this plant rich, moist, well-draining soil; it doesn't tolerate wet feet. Blooms better in full sun although it withstands some shade. May require some deadheading. Hardy in USDA Zones 9 to 11.

Red mountain sage (Salvia darcyi)
The plant: Spikes of tubular, orange-red flowers appear in summer to fall and attract hummingbirds and butterflies. It grows to three to four feet tall and six to seven feet wide.
How to use it: Use in a xeriscape or a wildlife friendly garden.
Cultivation: Red mountain sage does best in full sun and well-drained soil. It tolerates partial shade but has better flowering in more sun. Cut back foliage to the ground in early spring. Hardy in USDA Zones 7 to 10.

'Scotch Bonnet' pepper
The plant: 'Scotch Bonnet' is a type of pepper similar to the habanero. Fruit is wrinkled and about two inches in diameter. The red fruit is sweeter and slightly less hot than other habaneros but still has plenty of heat.
How to use it: Use in making salsa and jerk sauces.
Cultivation: 'Scotch Bonnet' pepper requires full sun and a moist, well-drained soil. The fruit can be harvested green, and the flavor and heat will become more intense as they ripen. Note: take care to wear gloves when chopping and avoid wiping eyes.

Next Up

No-Till Gardening Methods

No-till gardening saves time, conserves water and reduces weeds. There are several methods including Hugelkultur, Ruth Stout, back-to-Eden and lasagna gardening.  Find out how to incorporate these organic practices in your yard.

25 Things You Can Compost (Some May Surprise You!)

Did you know you can compost hair, dryer lint and nail clippings along with your kitchen scraps? It’s not gross; rather, it helps amp up the quality of your garden soil.

How to Care for a Fiddle Leaf Fig

Pruning, watering, repotting, oh my! Keep your finicky ficus alive and thriving with our 10 easy-to-follow tips.

How to Plant a Kitchen Herb Garden

Herbs are easy to grow, they don’t take up a lot of space and they are a healthy way to add more flavor to your cooking. Whether you’re a beginning gardener or looking to elevate your culinary skills, an herb garden is the way to go.

How to Use Neem Oil on Plants

Neem oil helps control pests on garden and indoor plants. Learn tips for using this effective organic product and shop our product recommendations.

How to Grow and Care for Air Plants

These quirky plants don’t need soil, but they can’t live on air alone. Here’s what you need to know to keep them healthy.

How to Grow Microgreens

Packed with nutrition, microgreens add robust vegetable or herb flavor to dishes, but they can be costly to buy at the grocery store. Luckily, they’re very easy to grow from seed at home and can be grown year-round indoors, regardless of climate.

How to Plant, Grow + Propagate Pothos

Discover one of the easiest houseplants to grow. Pothos requires little maintenance, likes low light and looks great with every type of decor style.

Planting, Growing and Harvesting Marjoram

Marjoram is a Mediterranean herb that is often used in French cooking. Learn how to grow and care for marjoram in your garden. Plus, get tips for harvesting, using and preserving fresh marjoram.

How to Grow Lamb's Ears, Nature's Most Touchable Plant

Learn how to grow and use lamb's ears — great for a children's garden or a sensory garden.

Go Shopping

Get product recommendations from HGTV editors, plus can’t-miss sales and deals.


Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.