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How’s It Growing?

Boston Ivy

Leaves of three, let it be? Hah! Fooled ya. While this vine is sometimes mistaken for Poison Ivy, don't let it scare you. They're not even related. In fact, Boston Ivy is from the grape family. Read on to see why this plant makes a beautiful addition to the landscape!

Characteristics & Growth Habit

Boston Ivy is a deciduous perennial vine that can grow up to 30' tall. It has varying leaf shapes, often starting out like small hearts, then forming lobed compound leaves or 3 separate leaves. There are also many varieties of this vine, including some that are variegated!

Friend or foe?

You can tell this vine apart from its irritating lookalike by the way it attaches to a surface. While Poison Ivy attaches by aerial rootlets, Boston uses sticky disks called tendrils. They kind of look like little frog feet! These strong tendrils make it easy for them to climb without a support (more on that later).

Boston Ivy

Probably the most notable characteristic of Boston Ivy is its beautiful fall color. The leaves will turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange, red and purple before dropping in late winter. It makes a small flower in spring, but nothing to write home about. Bluish black berries appear soon after, a treat for the birds!

Did you know?

A vigorous grower, you may have seen it covering large brick buildings; especially in the New England area. You know why they're called Ivy League schools? It refers to the Boston Ivy growing all over Yale, Dartmouth and Harvard! You might think that since this vine grows so well there, it may not be as hardy here. But Boston Ivy is very adaptable and grows in most all parts of Texas.

In the Landscape

While the idea of a vine covered house may be romantic, you'll need to think carefully before adding this plant to your landscape. It can be a chore to remove if you change your mind. Boston Ivy is known for being somewhat gentler on the surfaces it grows on, but over time it can deteriorate wood or stucco. It is best suited to grow on stone, brick or chain linked fences. Otherwise, building a support a few inches away from the side of the house may be an option. You could even grow this as a ground cover on slopes to help with erosion!

Boston Ivy

Another thing to consider is, what will you plant at the base? Over time, most of the foliage will be at the top of the plant. So a nice foundation hedge underneath may be in order. Elaeagnus or Encore Azalea might be a good compliment!

Tips & tricks

This vine is tough and can grow in full to part sun. However, it will do best planted on the east side of the yard to avoid leaf scorch in the summer. Want the best fall color? While very drought tolerant once established, plenty of rain will give you the best leaf show. HAHA. Get out the water hose, regular watering is more reliable!

Because it grows so well here, you will have to do some occasional maintenance on it. There are stories of neglected vines creeping into window sills or clogging gutters. Yikes! Not to worry, it can be pruned any time of year and with regular care won't be a problem.

Give it a try!

Planting vines takes some planning, but the good outweighs the bad for this variety. Boston Ivy has very few pest or disease problems. Birds like it, deer don't. Adding a deciduous vine to the side of your building can also help keep it cool in the summer and warm in the winter! Except for a haircut and a drink every once in a while, they don't need much. Plus it's gorgeous! Ready to give it a try? We have a few of these hidden gems right now at The Garden Center in one gallon containers. Get growin'!

September 2019


What's the name of that plant? It's green...and has a weird name...Xylophone? No. Xylograph? Nah. Xena Warrior Princess? Nope. You're thinking of Xylosma!

Shape, Size and Color

Xylosma (pronounced z-eye-las-mah or z-eye-lohs-mah) may have a funny name, but has lots of value in the landscape. This evergreen shrub features beautiful reddish bronze new growth that matures to a shiny, bright green. The tear drop shaped leaves grow on long arching branches giving it a shrubby form.

It will grow to about 10 or 12 feet tall and wide, making it an excellent choice for privacy hedges, foundation plantings, windbreaks and backgrounds. Left to its own devices, Xylosma has a loose, open growth habit, but can also be easily sheared back into neat, tidy hedges. With some training, it can even be shaped into a small tree.

But, Not Just Green

While this shrub does make a flower, you might not notice much. The honey bees will, however! The flower is small and yellowish-green and is then followed by small, black ornamental fruit which attracts birds.

Now, where to put it?

Plant this beauty in full or partial sun. Though it prefers regular watering, it doesn't mind summer sun or heat once it gets established. It is cold hardy to 10º, rarely has pest or disease problems and is deer resistant. Xylosma is also a fast grower!

This plant looks fantastic alongside crape myrtles, lantana or shrub roses. But truly, it looks great with just about anything! Xylosma is available at The Garden Center regularly throughout the year. Right now, we have plenty of them in 5 or 7 gallon containers. Come by and see us!

August Plant of the Month 2019

What in the world could be blooming in August in San Antonio you ask? The answer is Coneflower! While other plants may be taking a break from our summer heat, Coneflower is thriving.

Double Scoop Cranberry Coneflower

When talking about Echinacea the first image that may come to mind might be a purple daisy-like flower, but there are 9 different species and over 60 different varieties! Many of the new types have double blooms or unusual petals. Pictured here are Double Scoop Cranberry and Cheyenne Spirit. Coneflowers are easy to grow and are native to North America.

How it Grows

While some native varieties can reach up to 5' tall, most hybridized varieties will stay a tidy, compact 1-3' tall and wide. This clumping perennial can be easily identified by its rough textured, dark green lanceolate or ovate leaves, with its trademark long petalled flower and protruding cone atop a tall, thick stem.

Coneflowers' long lasting blooms appear in late spring and continue through summer. They can be deadheaded if desired, but can also add fall & winter interest if allowed to dry on the plant. You may even get some fine feathered visitors looking for delicious seeds to eat!

Coneflower makes a good cut flower for arrangements, attracts butterflies and bees. It's also well known for its use in herbal remedies for toothaches, sore throats, infections and strengthening the immune system. Don't try this at home, kids. Always do your homework before ingesting anything in the landscape!

How to Grow it!

Grow Echinacea in full sun or part shade. It prefers moist, well-drained soil, but can handle poor soil as well. They look great in borders or naturalized areas.

These plants tolerate high heat and humidity and are somewhat drought tolerant. There are conflicting reports of its resistance to deer. Maybe keep the repellant handy, just in case.

Right now at The Garden Center, you can pick up Double Scoop Cranberry, Cheyenne Spirit, Red Sombrero or Now Cheesier coneflowers in a 1 gallon container for color all summer!

July Plant of the Month

It's finally here! Sometimes after a long winter, Pride of Barbados takes a while to get going again. But once it does, this plant is a show stopper! Also called Mexican Bird of Paradise, this tropical shrub features vibrant red-orange flowers with long red stamens atop green feathery, fern-like foliage.

Growing to an average size of 6-8 feet tall and wide, Pride of Barbados has a loose, open and spreading growth habit. In ideal conditions they can even reach up to 20 feet! This plant can be grown bushy as is or shaped into a small tree form. Grow it in containers or in the ground, but either way, make sure it has well-drained soil.

Pride of Barbados will also need full sun, maybe just a little shade. It is extremely heat and drought tolerant once established and doesn't mind the humidity one bit. This plant looks great mixed in with shrubs and perennial beds. It especially stands out when placed next to cooler colored flowers like Blue Cape Plumbago, Texas Sage or Indigo Spires Salvia.

Because Pride of Barbados is a tropical shrub, it may need to be protected from hard freezes. It has been said to have survived temperatures as low as 18º. Most years here in San Antonio, one of two things will happen. Either it will lose its foliage but not freeze all the way to the ground or it will freeze back to the ground completely and return the next spring.

Even with a slow start, Pride of Barbados can still reach full size and bloom beautifully in one growing season, bringing bees and butterflies to your garden. If you have to have one of these beauties, you can find them and all of your other favorites here at The Garden Center!

You know those big, juicy pomegranates that you get in the grocery store? They're called Wonderful for a reason. And you can grow them yourself! Wonderful Pomegranates grow just fine in our hot, dry San Antonio climate. They don't mind the hot sun and even if you don't eat the fruit, they still make an attractive shrub or small tree.

Pomegranates will grow to about 10-15' tall and wide with glossy dark green foliage. Bright red-orange funnel shaped flowers start to bloom in spring and summer. Fruit follows shortly after and usually ripens around October or November. Golden yellow leaves drop in the fall. The 'Wonderful' variety yields large, globular juicy fruit with a sharp, tangy flavor.

If you want this delicious fruit, make sure you get the right variety of pomegranate! This includes Wonderful, Austin, Angel Red and others. There are also compact and dwarf varieties available. While they too produce beautiful flowers and fruit, the pomegranates are often small and dry. But, they are nice to have as an ornamental hedge or in containers.

The bright orange flowers attract butterflies and hummingbirds. You may have to compete with squirrels for some of the fruit. The upside is that they are deer resistant. Not very tasty to them and the long spines on the branches aren't much fun either.

Pomegranates can be grown as a large, bushy shrub or trained as a small tree. They can also be grown in containers. They prefer well-drained soil, with deep but infrequent watering. Plant them in full sun for the best results. If you're in the market for a Wonderful Pomegranate, come by and see us. We have them in stock right now!

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!