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How’s It Growing?

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


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.


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.


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!

August Plant of the Month

Tropical Milkweed

tropical milkweed

Are you bonkers for butterflies? San Antonio just can't get enough of this stuff! We know butterflies love 'em too, but what the heck are they called? If you said butterfly weed, you're half right. There are lots of varieties of milkweed, they are sometimes called butterfly weed. Combine common names with a few mislabeled plants and there's sure to be some confusion. Let's clear it up a bit, huh? The variety that we carry here at The Garden Center (pictured) is called Tropical Milkweed (Asclepius currasavica). A lot of us here still call it "butterfly weed". Old habits...

Just the Facts

Tropical Milkweed has bright orange and red clusters of flowers early summer through fall. An herbaceous perennial with upright stalks, it sometimes looks a little skinny as a youngster. Don't worry, it will get bushier over time. It can get up to 3 feet tall and 1-2 feet wide. This variety is not native to Texas but to Mexico. Even so, it is well adapted to our climate. Grow it in full sun with maybe just a little shade in the afternoon.

This tough little plant is deer resistant and tolerates heat, poor soil and drought. In fact, the easiest way to kill milkweed is by over watering! It has a long taproot that helps it get through dry spells. Tropical Milkweed has no serious pests or diseases except for the occasional rust spots or aphids.

About Those Butterflies

Now lets talk flowers! This butterfly weed attracts, you guessed it...butterflies. Flowers are a nectar source for many bees, hummingbirds, beneficial pollinators. The leaves are also a food source for monarch butterfly caterpillars.

The downside to this particular variety? It blooms well into late summer and fall, which can delay monarch migration. For this reason, you may want to help out by planting other varieties of Asclepius like "tuberosa" or "asperula". You can also just cut the plants down around September and keep them that way until spring. Read more about the downsides and why you would do all that here.

Placement and Uses

Grow these beauties as a border or a backdrop for other low growing perennials. They are also good for rock gardens or naturalized areas in the landscape. Pair them with other butterfly favorites like Butterfly Bush, Gregg's Blue Mist Flower or Coneflower.

If you're feeling adventurous, milkweed has several other uses aside from aesthetics and as a butterfly cafe. Pioneers and native Americans used to boil the roots to treat diarrhea, asthma and other respiratory illnesses. Young seed pods were boiled like okra. (A word of warning: Always consult a knowledgeable source before ingesting or topically applying plant concoctions!) And if you've got LOTS of time on your hands, the down from milkweed seeds can be spun to make candlewicks. The seed pods are also nice for flower arrangements.

Here at The Garden Center, we carry Tropical Milkweed through the growing season, but with its popularity this year, it's been hard to keep on the tables! As of this writing, we got 'em. But give us a ring first- just to make sure!





Awful Aphids!


Raining Trees?

Have you ever walked underneath a crape myrtle and thought "Oh, it's sprinkling!" and then wondered why it was only raining under the tree? Hate to break it to ya, but you just got pooped on by aphids. GROSS!

That's not the only thing you might notice when these tiny pests are around. Aphids are one of our #1 pest complaints here at the nursery. Fortunately, they are not too difficult to get rid of.

How to Spot Them

Aphids are tiny soft bodied critters that suck the sap out of plants. There are over 4,000 different species and are many different colors including green, yellow, brown, black or even red! Some have a smooth body while others have a waxy or woolly coating.

These little beasties will go after any juicy plant available. Some of the signs you might notice are:

  • curled misshapen or yellow leaves
  • deformed flowers or fruit
  • ants hanging out on your plants
  • shiny, sticky looking leaves
  • black powdery leaves

Curly, deformed or yellow leaves may mean aphids are hiding on the underside of the foliage. Go take a peek! They can also damage flowers and fruit as they form. Many times, folks will see ants on their plants and think that they are the culprit.

Here's the real reason they're there- ants like to keep aphids as pets! Kinda. It's more like farming. The ants will protect aphids from predators because they benefit from them. As aphids feed on plant sap they secrete a substance called honeydew. (Remember the raining poopy crape myrtle? That's really what it is.)

Honeydew is sticky and sweet and ants feed off of it. They even "pet" the aphids to get more of the stuff out of them! This is why you sometimes see wet, shiny looking leaves on plants that are infested. It can also leave a sticky layer of goo on your car or driveway. Honeydew can encourage a fungal growth called sooty mold, hence the black powdery leaves that sometimes appear.

What Now?

So how do you get rid of 'em? There are many easy solutions to aphid issues. Here are a few from simple to hardcore:

  • Is it just a few? Just pinch or snip off the affected leaves.
  • Spray aphids with a hard blast of water. Once you've knocked them off, they generally have a hard time crawling up the same plant again.
  • Release the ladybugs! Ladybugs love to eat aphids. Release them at the base of the plant in the evening and say "buh-bye".
  • Spray 'em with a soapy water solution. Easy peasy.
  • Use diatomaceous earth. This powdery substance is organic and will also keep slugs, beetles and fleas at bay.
  • Use an organic spray such as Spinosad or Insecticial Soap.
  • Use a traditional spray such as Cyonara or any pyrethrin based product.

Still not sure which method to use? Or not sure those are even the right bugs? Bring us a sample and we can help you find the best solution. See ya soon at The Garden Center!




July Plant of the Month

Jerusalem Sage

Oh man, it's getting hot out there. But here's one plant that can take the heat without complaining even a little bit. Jerusalem Sage (Phlomis fruticosa) will take that summer sun and turn it into a spectacular show of yellow flowers to stop you in your tracks.

jerusalem sage

Growing to about 3-4 tall and wide, this shrubby semi-evergreen has woolly gray-green leaves with yellow blooms that appear in spring or early summer. You'll also see butterflies and hummingbirds when you plant this one. Deadheading will encourage it to re-bloom again during the season. Or, leave it alone and let the interesting star shaped seed heads have their moment. The flowers can be cut for bouquets and vases, or used as a dried flower.

Jerusalem Sage is not a true sage plant, but a member of the mint family. Its Mediterranean origins mean that you can count on it tolerating and even thriving in hot, dry spots. Plant in well drained soil in full sun. It is drought tolerant once established and guess what? It's deer resistant! This plant is easy to care for with few pest or disease problems.

Jerusalem Sage is classified as an herbaceous perennial, but here in good ol' zone 8a/9, it all just depends on our winter weather. It is usually a semi-evergreen or in a mild winter, you may not notice any missing leaves at all. A hard winter may make it freeze back, but it generally comes back year after year. It is cold hardy to about 23º although it has been reported to survive lower temperatures.

The mounding, bushy growth habit of Jerusalem Sage makes it look great in informal gardens, cottage gardens or in a Mediterranean themed garden. Pair it with santolina, rosemary, lavender, olives or even agave plants. Use this plant as a border, small hedge or in containers. Jerusalem Sage is blooming now at  The Garden Center. Come by and grab one before they're all gone!





Here's to the Best Nursery Cat Ever

No nursery is complete without a cat laying around (or on) your plants. That's why it is with heavy hearts that we must say goodbye to our four legged friend, Spartacus. What we thought was an upper respiratory infection unfortunately turned out to be cancer. We want to thank Dr. Pavlov, Dr. Peters and all of the caring staff at Pavlov's Dog and Cat Hospital who helped us take care of Spartacus throughout the years and in his final days.

spartacusSpartacus was not your ordinary nursery cat. He came to The Garden Center as a stray kitten hiding out in the bushes. He would cry to get your attention, but was too shy to come near. It's safe to say he got over that with time and kibble. We will miss opening up in the morning with him waiting by the door. He was always present at our weekly staff meetings, even though we know he was just there for the tacos.

We could never hide the trays of catnip from him, and before we knew it, we had smushed plants and a happy cat. Spartacus was good at bringing us gifts of mice, lizards and the occasional snake. YIKES! You could never turn on a water hose without Spartacus begging for a drink. In the summer, he liked to be hosed down to cool off. Weirdo. He learned the commands "jump", "go to your spot", "shake hands" and could give you a "high five". If he wasn't getting enough love and attention, he would chase you down and grab your ankle. He let us do all sorts of goofy things to him for good photo.

We'll miss dragging him inside at the end of the day to keep him from chasing the raccoons at night. He could be grumpy and unpredictable at times and therefore came with his own warning label. Cats, you know? We're told that he turned into a Tazmanian devil once when getting his teeth cleaned, but Dr. Pavlov would always still say he was "such a good kitty". And he's right. We don't care what anyone says, Spartacus was the best nursery cat ever.

R.I.P. Spartacus; 2009-June 15th, 2018






June Plant of the Month


Do you love the smell and taste of rosemary? Not only is this woody perennial herb a wonderful ingredient for cooking, it's easy to grow in your landscape!

What's the Difference?

There's lots of different varieties to choose from, all of them are edible! Some varieties grow upright while others spread like a ground cover. Upright varieties can make nice borders or hedges, while trailing varieties look great spilling over a retaining wall or out of a container. At The Garden Center you can often find Tuscan Blue or Barbecue (upright), Prostrate or Lockwood de Forest (trailing). Tiny blue flowers will appear in spring and summer, attracting those oh so beneficial bees!

How to Grow

Rosemary grows best in full sun. Yes, even our San Antonio summer full sun. Its Mediterranean origins mean that it can tolerate lots of heat and drought. It needs well draining soil and good air circulation. Too much water and cramped conditions can cause mildew issues and less flavorful foliage. Another great thing about rosemary is that deer think it's an acquired taste and won't bother it.

Uses and Benefits

Grow rosemary along walkways, near patios or in containers. Whenever you brush against them walking by, you'll release their fragrance. Some say the scent even repels mosquitoes! Here are some other benefits and uses for this awesome herb:

  • Contains antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds
  • Studies have shown that rosemary may help fight diseases such as cancer and Alzheimer's
  • The scent of rosemary improves memory, concentration and mood
  • Can be made into a topical tonic to promote hair growth
  • Improves digestion
  • Can be used as flavoring for meat, bread, deserts, preserved with vinegar or olive oil

It's no wonder that rosemary was selected as The International Herb Association's Plant of the Year in 2000. Ready to plant yours? They are available nearly year-round at The Garden Center. Come by and run your hands through them. You won't be able to resist!







How to Water Your Plants

You might be saying, why on earth would someone need to write about this? Seems easy enough; you pour some water on and you're done, right? Not so fast! Over and under watering are the most common reasons that new plants fail. Here are some tips for watering your newly planted babies.

New In-Ground Plantings


The best way to water new plants is by hand. Not only is hand watering allowed even during watering restrictions, this method ensures the plant will get enough moisture. Use a handheld hose to thoroughly saturate the root ball of the plant all the way around. Turn the hose on high and don't allow your water hose to sit off to one side. Spraying foliage is not necessary.

Perennials, annuals and shrubs should be watered 2-3 times per week, about 2-5 minutes at a time. Trees should be watered 2-3 times per week about 2-5 minutes, depending on the tree's size. Remember that seasonal adjustments may need to be made to your watering schedule (e.g. super hot, dry summers or lots of torrential downpours).

More water is not always better! The idea behind hand watering is to water deeply and infrequently. This encourages roots to go deep into the soil to get that water. Shallow watering keeps roots near the surface, causing a weaker root system.

We recommend watering regularly for the first year to get plants established. Yup, a whole year. After that you can start to slowly taper off the amount you give them.

Some Like it Hot

Er, uh dry. Plants like palm trees, succulents and cactus store a lot of water in their trunks and like to stay on the dry side, but they still need some love to get established. Water these only once a week, 3-5 minutes at a time.


Check container plants daily. In the summer, sometimes twice a day! The smaller the container, the faster it will dry out. Hanging baskets will also dry out quickly. The type of container you use can also have an effect on moisture levels. Terra cotta pots tend to dry out faster than glazed ceramic ones. That plant you bought but haven't planted yet? If it's in one of those black plastic buckets, it's going to heat up quickly in a sunny spot!

Indoor Plants

Check indoor plants for water every 7-10 days or so. Your mileage may vary. If you're getting those little fungus gnats hanging around, your plants may be staying too wet. Those little pests LOVE excess moisture.

Established Plants

Established trees, shrubs and perennials often do not need weekly watering. A thorough soak a couple times per month should be enough. Except when there's....


Ugh. The D word. Even plants that are drought tolerant will feel the heat. Remember tolerant does not mean they will necessarily like it! You may need to add longer or additional waterings in a period of drought.

What About Sprinklers and Watering Bags?

Sprinklers are fine for supplemental watering, but should not be relied upon to get your plants established. Sprinklers are designed to water lawns, whose roots are only a few inches deep. Remember that thing about shallow watering? The same is true with watering bags- they should not replace regular watering by hand.

How to Check Moisture Levels

Read carefully now, this is a really sophisticated method to check your plants for water. Stick your finger in the dirt. Okay, so it's not. You really don't need fancy meters to tell you what your plant needs. This method is sometimes called the two knuckle rule. Place your finger in the soil up to the second knuckle to check for moisture. If the soil is dry, crumbly and comes off your finger easily, apply water. Wet, muddy soil that sticks to your finger means you can wait a bit.

Whew! Are you ready for a glass of water yourself? There are many philosophies regarding watering plants. These tips have served us well for over 25 years. Remember that plants are like people, some may need more attention than others, even if it's the same species or planted in the same area. Gardening takes practice and patience. As you hand water your plants, you will get to know them and their needs better. Really!