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Growing on the High Plains: Henbit—Weed or Wildflower?

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There’s a particular square-stemmed annual with fragrant leaves and tubular purple blooms that often polarizes High Plains gardeners. Some say it’s a nuisance. Some consider it a colorful harbinger of spring after a long, drab winter.

On today’s Growing on the High Plains, we’re talking about the divisive henbit, a member of the mint family that establishes itself in the fall, matures to thick foliage, and then blossoms in the spring but generally disappears with the first hot spell of summer.

Henbit spreads by seed, rather than roots or runners. So if you side with the camp that considers henbit a hassle, maintaining a healthy lawn with heavy mulch in your flower beds should do the trick. But I recommend trying a little tolerance. Even those chomping at the henbit to rid their garden of the intruder will likely see it resurface from seeds blown in from neighboring spaces.

Years ago Skip Mancini left the rocky coast of Northern California to return to her roots in the heartland. Her San Francisco friends, concerned over her decision to live in a desolate flatland best known for a Hollywood tornado, were afraid she would wither and die on the vine. With pioneer spirit, Skip planted a garden. She began to learn about growing not only flowers and vegetables, but hearts and minds. If you agree that the prairie is a special place, we think you'll enjoy her weekly sojourns into Growing on the High Plains.