Oklahoma Roses and Texas Bluebonnets

I never figured out why these state flowers became so heavily legislated and still do not know why it is so difficult and time-consuming for state legislatures to designate a state flower, specifically speaking of Texas and Oklahoma. The Oklahoma State Flower is the Oklahoma Rose. The Texas State Flower is the Bluebonnet. Both flowers have been the target of lengthy legislative sessions in both states.

Starting with Oklahoma, and contrary to popular belief that its flower is the Indian Blanket, its flower is the Oklahoma Rose since 2004. It is a hybrid tea rose with a sweet and powerful aroma. Its dark red color turns almost velvety black when the summer heat rises high. The Oklahoma legislature named the Indian Blanket as the Oklahoma State Flower in 1986—quite confusing.

The Bluebonnet in Texas had a fight on her hands. The men in the Texas legislature in 1900 proposed a cotton boll and a prickly pear cactus as Texas’ flowery representative. The ladies had a whole different perspective, and they won with the Bluebonnet. The Bluebonnet was in legislative limbo until 1971 due to the fact that there are five species of this iconic Texas flower. Ironically, the Bluebonnet is the state flower, and the Prickly Pear Cactus is the state plant.

Who Maintains the State Flowers of Oklahoma and Texas?

All over our vast prairie land that stretches from south Texas to Alberta, and Saskatchewan, Canada, spring brings delight to our hearts with a spectacular visual concerto of wildflowers that last until the first freeze, and sometimes even longer.

In Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Department of Transportation (ODOT) plants wildflower seeds all over Oklahoma highways. In Texas, the Department of Transportation (TDOT) is in charge of a wildflower program that spreads wildflower seeds across Texas’ highways and byways.

The Oklahoma Rose

Oklahoma adopted mistletoe as its official flora in 1893. Oklahoma was still a territory then. In 1910, the State of Oklahoma officially adopted mistletoe as its floral statement. As one might expect, mistletoe did not convincingly excite the Oklahoma territorial citizens. Oh, there was an export market for mistletoe during Christmas with historical significance.

Mistletoe does not have the beauty of a wildflower, so this plant did not compel garden clubs in Oklahoma to get behind and support it as a state symbol as eras passed. In 1986, the Indian Blanket was officially designated as the Oklahoma State Flower. Sponsored in the forty-first Legislature by state representatives Kelly Haney, a Seminole Indian artist, and Billie Floyd, the Indian Blanket quickly gained popularity.

But, in time, Oklahoma gardeners were not impressed with the Indian Blanket. Oklahoma is one of the most well-known U.S. states as one of the thrones of innovation in many fields and industries. Horticulture is included. Oklahoma State University horticulturists, Herbert C. Swim and O. L. Weeks, were credited with breeding the Oklahoma Rose in 1963 and introducing it in 1964.

It was quite a few years later that Oklahoma gardeners got behind a political movement to name the Hybrid Tea Rose the Oklahoma State Flower. Garden clubs across Oklahoma supported the adoption of a more cultivated state emblem. Senator Gilmer Capps introduced a bill that would name the Hybrid Tea Rose the Oklahoma State Flower in 2003. In 2004, Capps’ bill passed and the Oklahoma Rose was official.

But wait! There’s more! The Hybrid Tea Rose, or Oklahoma Rose in the Sooner State, is reported to be originally cultivated in France in the mid 1800s. Allegedly, this rose quickly became popular and spread around the globe quickly. It tends to be a hardy flowering bush, which withstands colder temperatures. Well, who knows where the Oklahoma Rose originated from now?

How Do You Grow an Oklahoma Rose?

The Oklahoma Rose blooms repeatedly beginning in late spring and re-blooms throughout early fall. This rose bush will grow to between four and six feet in height, and should be planted a minimum of two to three feet apart.

The Oklahoma Rose is mildew resistant and needs at least six hours of direct sunlight every day. This rose must be protected from strong winds. Do not plant this rose bush within two feet of a wall because it can get sunburned from reflected heat. The soil conditions must be just right. Soil that is too grainy or has too much clay will not produce vibrant roses.

Oklahoma Rose enthusiasts in Oklahoma can buy these beautiful bushes at any garden center. To make soils suitable for growing roses, mix organic matter such as compost, peat, and cotton burrs to improve soil conditions. Pruning is essential for the Oklahoma Rose, and there are specific pruning methods to ensure great blooms. Planting and pruning information is readily available online.

The Texas Bluebonnet

She is an icon! Her beauty stunned and inflamed legislators in the Texas House and Senate. There was a hellacious ruckus in the Texas State House of Representatives when she was first introduced in 1900. One of the most temperate questions asked during those legislative sessions was “What the devil is a Bluebonnet?”, but many more ribald statements were recorded.

At that time, cotton was still king in Texas. The Texas cotton industry considered the cotton boll the “White Rose of Commerce”. Then there was Cactus Jack, aka State Representative John Nance, who wanted the Prickly Pear Cactus to represent Texas. Representative Phil Clement wanted an open cotton boll for the symbol of Texas.

You all know how determined born and bred Texas women can be. You cannot blame the men because they wanted to boast the agricultural wealth of Texas through prickly soft plants, which led to great economies from Texas’ natural resources.

The National Society of the Colonial Dames of America’s Texas Chapter were not in agreement with the men in this legislative manner and were tenacious in designating the Bluebonnet as the Texas State Flower.

The ladies played their cards well, listened to all the “strong” language and arguments on the legislative floor, and sat silently by—until—the ladies brought in a painting of a Bluebonnet by Miss Mode Walker of Austin and hung it in the house chamber. The legislators fell silent. And, that’s how the Bluebonnet became the Texas State Flower. For a more in-depth history of the Bluebonnet’s rise to Texas fame, please feel free to check out my previous article:


How Do You Grow Your Own Bluebonnet Garden?

Establishing a Bluebonnet garden can take several years. But once the Bluebonnets are thriving, Bluebonnets will reseed and reappear each spring. Texas bluebonnets are annual plants, which means they grow from seed to flower, and then back to seed in one year.

Bluebonnet seeds germinate in the fall and grow throughout the winter and bloom around the end of March to the mid-May. Texas Bluebonnets adapt to the rocky, alkaline soils of the Texas Hill Country and they thrive in heavily disturbed, poor soils. But, Bluebonnets grow all over Texas. There are five species of Bluebonnets.

To increase Bluebonnet germination rate, scarify the seeds. Scarification means scratching or nicking the seed coats to simulate a natural weathering process. Bluebonnet seeds have a thick shell. Most Bluebonnet seeds will germinate quickly after scarification, and then need to be watered for several weeks, especially if the weather is dry.

Did you know that Bluebonnets are legumes? The roots of bluebonnets work in tandem with the bacterium rhizobium, which improves their growth and flowering. Rhizobium can be applied to the seeds before they are planted or to the soil after the seeds have germinated.

Oklahoma and Texas Wildflower Programs

How can you participate in beautifying Oklahoma and Texas highways with wildflowers? The Oklahoma Native Plant Society is a great place to start. In 1987, individuals from throughout the state founded the Oklahoma Native Plant Society (ONPS) to encourage the study, protection, propagation, appreciation, and use of Oklahoma’s native plants.

The ONPS’s activities include field trips, lectures, workshops, displays, inventories, and roadside plantings to promote an awareness and understanding of native plants. A project of ONPS is Color Oklahoma – Sow Some Wild Seeds. Committee members raise money through state license tag sales and donations to plant wildflowers along state roadways. Color Oklahoma has its own website.

When it comes to Texas, the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center is the end all—be all for Texas wildflowers. The center is based out of the University of Texas at Austin. As you can imagine, the center is highly and comprehensively educational. There is so much to see and explore on its website even if you do not live near Austin, Texas.

The volunteer opportunities at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildlife Center are mostly focused in the Austin, Texas, region, but its website has numerous links to learn about how to beautify Texas highways. It offers inspiring classes and programs designed to teach folks of all ages how to grow native Texas gardens.

Bluebonnets can be tricky to get established. It may take several years to establish a good stand of bluebonnets and they do require some particular conditions to thrive. But once they are going, your bluebonnets should reseed and reappear each spring.

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GOOD. Water normal stain; 58 degrees; 1.53 feet below pool. Striped bass fishing is great drifting live shad around the islands or past the bridges near the rivers. Rain should finish off the spawn and look for bait on the banks with feeding fish near them. Top waters are working on sandy flats in 2-8 feet of water. Smallmouth bass are good on live shad along the bluffs on the banks in 2-4 feet of water. Also fair on spooks early and look for largemouth off the banks in 6-12 feet of water on main lake points near rocks. Catfish are fair on cut shad along the rocks in 30-45 feet of water. Drifting cut rough fish or gizzard shad in 5-10 feet of water near the river could produce a big fish after a rain with an inflow of dirty water. Crappie are good on brush piles in 12-18 feet of water on jigs using electronics to locate active fish working in and out of the brush. Look for spawners shallow with warmer temperatures in the forecast. Report by Jacob Orr, Guaranteed Guide Service Lake Texoma. Threadfin shad are spawning along the banks. Hybrid stripers are good on topwaters in the morning along rocky banks. Some days the egrets are working leading the way to fish. Some schooling activity under gulls. After the morning bite ends switch to swimbaits and Alabama rigs in 10-25 feet of water on the edges and dropoffs. This pattern should hold for the next 4-6 weeks while shad spawn near docks and banks. Report by John Blasingame, Adventure Texoma Outdoors.

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