Weekly Express-News Article
By Calvin R. Finch, PhD, SAWS
Water Resources Director, and Horticulturist
Saturday, March 1, 2008
Showy Blooming Plants”
If you have Texas
mountain laurel, redbud or Lady Banks rose in your neighborhood, they
are blooming or about to bloom. All
of them make a spectacular show in the landscape for about three weeks
at this time of the year. If you like how they look, now is also a good
time to plant the selections for bloom next year and every year after.
laurel has pendants of purple flowers that are attractive and very
fragrant. The smell reminds
me of the grape bubblegum that we used to buy for a penny as kids. Other gardeners describe the fragrance as exactly
like grape kool aid. The Texas
mountain laurel blooms are a distinctive feature of spring in South
Texas, but the plant has many other assets as a landscape
plant. It is a tough xeriscape
plant able to prosper in our climate without pesticides or supplemental
mountain laurel requires full sun.
It is an evergreen shrub or small tree that will grow to 20
feet tall. The plant has shiny dark green leaves that form
a compact form that does not require pruning. The plant is a relatively slow grower. If you water and fertilize Texas
mountain laurel it will grow faster, but will be slower to start blooming. Apply too much water and it will not survive.
Never plant Texas
mountain laurel in a low spot or poorly drained location. Texas
mountain laurel reseeds easily so a normal question is does it transplant
easily? No, they are hard to
transplant from the soil. The
best option to provide more home grown plants is to gather seeds after
the pods are full size, but before they completely dry out.
Place two or three seeds in a one gallon container filled with
potting soil and then transplant the potted plants.
About the only pest that bothers Texas
mountain laurel is a small caterpillar that I have always called the
sophora caterpillar. The minute
you notice leaves disappearing, apply Bt or Spinosad.
Both organic products will control the tiny caterpillar.
Redbuds remain invisible until this time of the year.
They are blooming now with small pink flowers that cover the
bare branches. The tree grows
to about 25 feet; I say it is invisible because it grows best in the
understory at the edge of the crowns of larger shade trees.
The individual leaves are heart-shaped and attractive, but
it does not form a showy crown. Early
spring when it is blooming is its time to be noticed.
If you select the right variety of redbuds they are good xeriscape
plants. Look for the Oklahoma,
Texas or Mexican varieties. All of the well-adapted redbuds have shiny leaves.
The Eastern redbud has a larger, flatter colored leaf.
It is not the best redbud for Texas.
The leaves drop off during droughty summers.
Another of the showy bloomers is the Lady Banks rose.
They bloom for about three weeks later in the spring and are
relatively inconspicuous the rest of the year.
I say relatively inconspicuous because Lady Banks reaches about
12 feet in diameter and is 10 feet tall when grown as a shrub in full
sun. It has a very distinctive weeping conformation.
For Lady Banks to bloom well it must be grown in full sun.
The plant is long lived, however, and some that were originally
planted in the sun were grown over by trees.
The Lady Banks will then send shoots 30 or 40 feet into the
tree and have blooms up where the shoots find sun.
There is a white and a yellow blooming version. The modern selections are usually yellow without
thorns or fragrance, but older selections can have both.
Deer will eat Lady Banks rose, but not Texas
mountain laurel or redbud. Lady
Banks is an antique rose that can survive our climate without supplemental
water, pesticides or fertilizer.