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
Texas 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!