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How’s It Growing?

butterfly bush

If you want more butterflies in your garden, this plant is a must have. It says so in the name! Butterfly Bush is a versatile shrub that comes in a rainbow of colors. Come summertime, this shrub is covered in flowers that bees and butterflies can't get enough of!

Growth Habit & Features

Butterfly Bush has lots of different varieties, growing to different sizes in the landscape. Most of them will grow to an average of 4-6' tall and wide. There are also many new cultivars that stay under 3'. Plant it in full sun with well-drained soil. They look great in perennial beds, as a specimen or in mixed shrub borders.

This deciduous shrub is fast growing with long arching branches of gray-green leaves that form an open loose growth habit in larger growers. Smaller varieties are a little more compact. Dense cone-shaped clusters of flowers appear spring through fall. And lots of 'em.

Butterfly Bush come in just about any color-white, pink, rose and many shades of blue/purple. As the name implies, it does attract bees and butterflies like crazy! Plus, it is deer resistant as well as heat and drought tolerant once established.

butterfly bush

The Truth About Butterfly Bush

Now, let's talk a bit about this plant's dark side. Dun dun DUNNN!!!! In some parts of the north east and north western U.S., Butterfly Bush is considered an invasive plant. This is because it produces sooo many flowers that turn into sooo many seed pods, in just the right environment, that they end up sprouting all over in those areas.

Plus, these plants are not host plants to any type of north American caterpillar. So, while the butterflies really enjoy the nectar of the flowers, they can't use it to lay their eggs.

The Good News

Well, now what? The good news is that Butterfly Bush is not considered invasive here in san Antonio as of yet. If you do notice an overabundance of seedlings, diligently deadheading will help. You may want to do that with any Butterfly Bush though. It will tidy it up and increase the new blooms! There's more good news- many of the newer cultivars available today are sterile, thus no seedlings running amok.

But, what about being a host butterfly plant? To feed hungry caterpillars, make sure to include lots of host plants like Passion Vine, Flame Acanthus, Texas Mountain Laurel, native Milkweed, citrus and Rudbeckia. Plus, they'll look awesome next to your Butterfly Bush!

It's almost time for these beauties to start blooming! The Garden Center has several varieties of Butterfly Bush right now including:

  • Buzz Ivory- sterile, white blooms
  • Nanho Blue or Purple- sterile, dwarf variety, blue or purple flowers
  • Miss Molly- sterile, ruby pink blooms
  • Royal Red- not sterile, but should not be an issue in San Antonio, (Northwest Coastal US, and Eastern coastal areas are reporting problems with invasiveness) purplish red blooms

Adding color to a shady landscape can sometimes be a challenge. Coral Bells are one way to tackle it! These little plants can make a big difference with their colorful foliage and dainty flowers.

Also known as Huechera or Alumroot, Coral Bells have a compact mounding growth habit. Growing only 12-20 inches tall and wide, they're easy to sneak into even the smallest garden spaces. These plants are also perennial and will come back year after year.

Coral Bells come in a large variety of foliage colors. Their maple-shaped leaves can range anywhere from chartreuse green to red, deep purple, solid green, bronze, yellow- orange, silvery gray, and even bi-color with contrasting veins!

In addition to their stunning foliage color, these plants also produce flower spikes with small red, white, or pink bell-shaped flowers. Blooms appear in late spring or summer and attract butterflies and hummingbirds. Coral Bells are also deer resistant!

Grow Huecheras in the shade with some sun in the morning. They make great fillers for containers or used as a garden border. Pair them with other shady garden plants like Agapanthus, Daylilies, Hydrangeas or Hostas.

These plants are easy to grow with few pest or disease problems. Watch for powdery mildew on occasion. Although they are drought tolerant once established, Coral Bells will do best with consistently moist soil. Mulch is a great way to keep them happy.

At The Garden Center, Coral Bells are generally available through spring. Right now, we have them in 4 inch containers, 1 gallon and 2 gallon containers. Come by and see our selection of Coral Bells and other shade lovers today!

Shasta Daisy

Nothing says spring time like good 'ol daisies! And Shasta Daisy is sure to please. This daisy is actually a type of Chrysanthemum. Chrysanthemum maximum to be exact; with flowers to match the name!

Shasta Daisy

Shasta daisy is a perennial well known and loved for its large, long lasting white daisy-like flowers with a yellow center eye. The flowers are nearly 2 or 3 inches across! With it's long stems, Shasta makes a nice cut flower for vases. It will bloom almost nonstop from spring until frost, attracting plenty of bees and butterflies along the way.

Shasta Daisy has deep green, attractive foliage with slender, almost leathery feeling leaves. It's low, bushy growth habit make it perfect for borders or container plantings.

For Shasta Daisies to grow happily, they need partial to full sun with moist, but well drained soil. They are heat tolerant, but do not like to dry out too much. They will let you know it too! Don't worry, they are usually pretty forgiving if you just missed one watering.

You can find Shasta Daisies right now at The Garden Center. Come by and see these beauties!

Texas Mountain Laurel

February Plant of the Month

It's almost time for the most recognizable grape Kool-aid scent of springtime in Texas to arrive! Texas Mountain Laurel is a very popular ornamental shrub or small tree that is native to central Texas. It's also known as the Mescal Bean or Frijollito among many other nicknames.

This evergreen is a slow grower up to about 20' tall and 15' wide with leathery dark green leaves year round. Most often, these trees are found as a multi-trunk plant in nurseries but with some training can be formed into a single trunk tree. But that's not really why you're here is it? Let's talk about the flowers!

Grape Kool-Aid Anyone?

Mountain Laurel produces very fragrant pendulous clusters of purple blooms in spring. They kinda look violets, sweet peas or even Wisteria. The color can be anywhere from deep blue-purple to light lavender and very rarely, white.

The fragrance is often described as grape Kool-aid, soda or bubble gum, very sweet; hummingbirds think so too! Flowers appear in spring, sometimes as early as February. They'll continue through March and wrap up the blooming around April.

The blooms are followed by silvery, fuzzy pea-like pods containing bright red seeds. Seed pods will hang on until fall then harden and drop off. They can be trimmed off if you prefer. The seeds are sometimes used for jewelry. A word of caution though, the seeds are poisonous and should be kept away from curious pets and little ones!

In the Landscape

mountain laurelTexas Mountain Laurels are great for small yards, you can fit them easily into a corner or near a driveway. These trees make excellent specimen plantings. They can also be used for screens when grouped together. Plant them in full to part sun. Mountain Laurels tolerate our San Antonio heat, drought and poor soil or lack thereof. However, they do require good drainage.

Mountain Laurels are pretty low maintenance though they are susceptible to caterpillars. Just keep an eye out for them and use an organic spray like BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) if they bother you or get out of hand. It is also a larval host for the Henry’s Elfin (Callophrys henrici) butterfly so if you can stand it, skip the spray.

Texas Mountain Laurels are available year-round at The Garden Center as long as we can get our hands on 'em. We carry them in 1 gallon containers all the way up to 45" boxes! Come by this spring to see what sizes are in stock and get a whiff of those wonderful blooms!

 

Encore Azalea

January Plant of the Month

encore azalea

Pop! Who couldn't use a vibrant pop of color in dreary January? Encore Azaleas feel ya. They are spring, summer and fall bloomers, but we still have a few straggler blooms on our plants at the moment.

The Basics

Encore Azaleas are small-medium evergreen shrubs that were developed in the 1980's. This variety was bred to produce a spectacular show of bright blooms not only in spring but to repeat bloom again in summer and fall.

Depending on the variety, these can range in size anywhere from 3 to 5 feet in height and width. Encore Azaleas come in an assortment of beautiful colors including white, pink, coral, purple, red and even some combinations of those! These beauties also tolerate more sun than other azaleas, although they do still need some relief from the hot afternoon sun here in the summer.

How and Where to Grow

Some say that azaleas can be difficult to grow. While they do have a few growing requirements, with a little planning, you too can grow azaleas! Encore Azaleas prefer acidic, moist, yet well drained soil. This is why you see them all over East Texas. Lucky dogs. Their soil is just right. Here in San Antonio, you will most likely need to amend your soil with lots of good organic material. Try a mixture of peat moss and pine bark mulch to work into the soil. Or you could make it super easy and grow them in containers with a ready made mix.

Plant an Encore Azalea as a single specimen or for the dramatic, in big groups! Keeping like colors close together can create a big impact. Combine them with other shade lovers like hydrangea or viburnum. We have a few Encore Azaleas available now at The Garden Center, with more colors to come in spring. If you can't wait that long, come on in and grab your pop of color!

 

Christmas Jewel Holly

December Plant of the Month

Christmas Jewel'Tis the season to buy hollies fa la la la laaa la la la laaaaaa! Hollies are starting to show off their winter berries and Christmas Jewel is one of our new favorites!

This holly is a new variety from Garden Debut, an evergreen shrub that reaches 10 feet tall and 6-8 feet wide at maturity. Christmas Jewel is a moderate grower with a naturally pyramidal, compact and upright growth habit. Grow it in full sun or a partially shady area.

These plants are easy to care for with very little pruning needed, but can be easily sheared into a hedge if desired. They are also nice when used in containers, as a screen or a specimen plant in the landscape. Another great thing about planting hollies of any kind, is that they are relatively pest and disease free. And yup, they're deer resistant.

Christmas Jewel of course has those classic holly shaped leaves- dark green and glossy, oblong with spiney sides and a point on the end. They're not super sharp spines however, unlike some of the more vicious holly varieties out there! Long lasting, large red berries appear in fall and winter. Don't worry about needing more than one or having a male or female to get berries. Christmas Jewel does not need a pollinator in order to produce the fruit.

Christmas Jewel is best known for its winter interest, but will surely become an anchor for your landscape. Come take a look at the beautiful hollies in stock now at The Garden Center and enjoy Christmas cheer year-round!

 

Japanese Maple

November Plant of the Month

japanese maple

It's the time of year for deciduous trees to put on a fall show of color before dropping their leaves for winter. If you're looking to add some spectacular fall reds, yellows and burgundy to your landscape, Japanese Maple may be an option for you!

Why Japanese Maples?

Japanese Maples range in size from small and shrubby to larger tree forms, but still small enough to fit almost any garden. There are even weeping varieties! They are well known and prized for their beautiful foliage. Some have the classic, unmistakeable maple leaf shape while other have a more lacey, fern-like appearance. Some Japanese Maples have colorful bark in addition to their foliage like the Coral Bark (Sango Kaku) cultivar. Coral Bark has bright red new stems that contrast nicely with its bright green foliage.

Japanese Maples are probably best known for their fall color. Before dropping leaves for winter, you can expect deep burgundy, orange, gold, bright red or even purplish hues. There is a catch, however. Planting Japanese Maples in South Texas take a little bit of planning.

Made for the Shade

Here in San Antonio, Japanese Maples definitely NEED shade. Plant your maple as an understory tree on the east side of your home. Just a few hours of morning sun is perfect. This will give your tree enough light for that bright fall color without getting too hot. Mid-day sun is a big no-no. Hot afternoon sun? You're askin' for it.

Too much sun can give your tree some super crispy leaves. While your maple might be ok in spring or fall, summer is just too dang hot here. A common problem that folks have with Japanese Maples is planting them in a space with too much sun, which in turn causes a case of crunchy foliage. Thinking the tree is not getting enough water, they end up drowning it!

Wet Feet Won't Work

You see, here's the other trick to growing beautiful Japanese Maples-yes, they need moisture, but well-drained soil. If you're planting in the ground and you've got lots of clay, amend it with a little sand, compost or aged bark. You can avoid this altogether by planting your maple in a container or raised bed. They are slow growers and do great in containers! The other advantage to planting is containers is that you can move them around.

Once you get your tree in the right spot, Japanese Maples are pretty low maintenance. They don't require heavy fertilizing or special care against insects. If you want to feed your maple, use an organic or slow release fertilizer in the spring or fall.

Here are the varieties available this year at The Garden Center. Come by and take a look, they're starting to get their fall color!

Bloodgood- Brilliant red fall color, upright growth habit with  red/black bark. Grows up to 15-20 ft.

Everred- Deep red fall color with a weeping growth habit to 10 ft.

Green Lace- Lacey foliage turns gold and crimson in fall. Weeping habit to 8 or 10 ft.

Ryusen Weeping- Palmate leaves turn yellow, red-orange in fall. Faster grower with a weeping habit up to 20 ft.

Coral Bark- Young branches are bright red especially in winter. Vibrant green foliage turns gold in fall. Upright grower to 25 ft.

Tamukeyama- Deeply lobed, purplish foliage turns bright red in fall. Deep red bark. Cascading habit to 10 ft. tall

 

Gregg's Blue Mist Flower

October Plant of the Monthblue mist flower

Ohhhhhh butterfly lovers... If you don't have this plant, you're missing out on quite the show! Gregg's Blue Mist Flower is irresistible to butterflies (especially Queen and Monarch), bees, and other pollinators and they are swarming them right now.

Gregg's Blue Mist Flower is a perennial growing up to 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide. It has deeply serrated light green leaves with a spreading growth habit like a groundcover. Although it will freeze back each winter, it will return in the spring. It's cold hardy to 0º!

Clusters of fuzzy looking light blue or lavender flowers on tall stems appear in late summer and continue through fall. Blooms and stalks will dry to brown as they age. Clip them off and trim back the plants to rejuvenate bushy growth and fresh flowers.

Gregg's is a Texas native so of course, its tough. It's heat and drought tolerant once established. Deer don't care for it that much, but will try it if they're hungry. Blue Mist Flower is best planted in part to full sun. It makes a good filler plant in perennial garden beds. Try it mixed with ornamental grasses, roses, salvias or Lantana!

Vanquish the Tiny Vampires

Mosquito Control How To

Summer may be coming to an end, but the mosquitoes will be around for awhile, especially with the recent rain. What can you do to keep these tiny vampires away? The answer is not garlic. Well, it kinda is. Just keep reading...

mosquito control

Prevention

mosquito controlOne of the best ways to keep mosquitoes away is to prevent them from ever getting to the biting stage. Using Mosquito Dunks or Bits in areas of standing water, tire swings, ponds and bird baths keeps mosquito larvae from maturing into biting beasties. Mosquito Dunks are made with the organic biological control BT (Bacillus thuringiensis) and is safe for pets, birds and fish.

Other ways to prevent the pests? Keep the lawn mowed and weeds under control. Mosquitoes love to hang out in tall grass. Clear up any old brush piles or refuse where mosquitoes can hide. Clean out doggie/kitty water dishes frequently.

Repellents

Ok here's where the garlic comes in. Repellents are a great organic option for keeping mosquitos away. Keep in mind that repellents do not kill these guys, it just deters them. Many are made with natural oils such as cedar, thyme, mint and you guessed it, garlic.

mosquito controlThese products are best for things like, "I'm having a barbecue tomorrow and I gotta do something!" Try I Must Garden's Mosquito, Flea and Tick Control (liquid spray) or Dr. T's Granules. You can also use citronella products like candles or incense. Plus they smell nice for an event! Try andiroba and citronella oil candles, incense sticks or cones by Amazon Lights.

Mosquito Plants

What about plants like citronella geranium, rosemary , lemon grass, mint, catnip and marigolds? Well, they look pretty... and they smell nice! While some of these plants do produce mosquito repelling scents, it's not as effective as we wish it was. It's just not the same as using a repellent. If you want to try it, plant these near outdoor spaces you will use the most. Frequently brushing up against these plants will release the fragrance, so walkways and potted patio containers in seating areas are good choices.

Insecticides

Ok, so they're swarming you on your way out to the car? You need something more heavy duty. This is where an insecticide is needed. Products in which the main ingredient is Permethrin, Bifenthrin or Lambda-Cyhalothrin will take care of those boogers. Not only will it kill them if they happen to be flying about while you're spraying, these sprays have a residual effect as well. This means that when a mosquito lands on a treated surface, it'll still get zapped.
mosquito controlYou may need more than one application, but don't go crazy. Wait 7-14 days before another treatment. You'll want to spray under decks, shrubby areas, along foundations, fence lines and in the yard. Try Cyonara or Fertilome's Broad Spectrum Insecticide.

All of the products mentioned in this article are available at The Garden Center. Come by and we'll show you your options. Hopefully these tips will keep you bite free for the rest of mosquito season and you'll be plenty prepared for next summer!

 

September Plant of the Month

Cape Honeysuckle

cape honeysuckle

Cape Honeysuckle might have a misleading name, but this plant won't do you wrong! Not a true honeysuckle, it's actually related to trumpet vine, desert willow and  jacaranda. It gets its name from the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa where it is a native plant. Yup, South Africa, where it gets nice and hot and dry. It does just as well here as it does there!

The average size of this beauty is about 6-8 tall and wide, though it depends on how you prune it. It can be grown as a shrub or trained as a vine. As a shrub, it will have a loose, open vase shaped growth habit. As a vine, it can grow 15' or more. It's also a fast grower and if left to its own devices, will shoot up runners far from the main plant-just clip 'em if they get outta hand.

Cape honeysuckle can be recognized by its glossy dark green, diamond shaped leaves. This plant will get covered in vibrant red-orange honeysuckle-like blooms year round. This no doubt attracts lots of butterflies, bees and hummingbirds.

Cape honeysuckle is considered a tropical evergreen, but around here it tends to be a semi-evergreen or perennial. Most years it will not freeze back, but if it does, it comes back every spring.

Grow Cape Honeysuckle in containers or in the ground. It grows best in full sun but can also tolerate partial shade. Pair it with perennials like Esperanza and Plumbago for explosive color!