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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!

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!

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Pineapple Guava

April Plant of the Month

pineapple guava

Pineapple Guava is one of those plants you may have overlooked in the nurseries or the landscape through much of the season, but just look at them now! These tropical evergreens grow just fine here in south Texas with gorgeous flowers, edible fruit and gray green foliage year-round.

In the Landscape

Pineapple Guava make an excellent privacy screen, growing to about 12 or 15 feet without trimming. You can also keep them sheared back as a hedge or shape it into a topiary tree. Their thick gray green leaves give them a dense form. Grow them in well drained soil amended with some compost or soil conditioner. They'll thank ya. You can also grow these in large containers.

While Pineapple Guava can be planted in full sun and is considered drought tolerant once established; it may still struggle a bit with our hot summer sun. If it starts to drop leaves, there's your warning that it's too dry.  Regular watering though summer and providing some shade in the afternoon will help 'em out quite a bit. Now here's a bit of good news: these shrubs can tolerate winter temperatures down to 10º!

Blooms and Fruit

Now let's get to the fun part. Fragrant Pineapple Guava blooms appear in early May with thick pink petals and red stamens. Hungry? Pick the petals for a sweet, crunchy snack. It will still set fruit if you're careful about plucking. The flowers can also be used as a nice edible garnish. Bees and butterflies love them too!

The small green fruit will start to ripen in the fall. To get the best crop, fertilize and water regularly during the summer. They are reported to taste the best when you let them ripen until they fall off the plant. If you pick them early, put them on a sunny windowsill like a tomato to let them ripen. The fruits have a minty-pineapple flavor, but some people say strawberry! Cut them in half and scoop out the pulp with a spoon or quarter them and take a bite. Pineapple Guava fruits can be made into jelly, jam, used as pastry filling and more!

One of the best things about this plant? It's virtually pest free! Even the deer aren't interested in this plant. Those thick leaves just aren't very appetizing to them. Ready to plant some of these in your landscape? Come on by The Garden Center, we have them in several sizes!

 

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Frog Fruit Verbena

frog fruitFunny name, serious ground cover. Frog Fruit is a fast growing Texas native ground cover with many names. You may have heard of it as Creeping Lipia, Mat Grass, Cape Weed or Turkey Tangle Fogfruit. Say that one three times fast.

Frog Fruit Verbena forms a dense mat that can take the place of traditional turf. You can even mow it like a lawn! It's an evergreen perennial with gray green foliage. In winter the foliage sometimes turns a purplish hue from cold temperatures.

This tough little plant is perfect for areas with heavy foot traffic, including dogs and the kiddos. It grows 3-4 inches tall, about 3 feet across and does best in full sun. Although it may not bloom as much, it will also tolerate part shade.

frog fruit frog fruitTiny white to lavender-pink flowers appear in spring and continue through fall. Because the flowers are rich in nectar , they attract bees and butterflies. Frog Fruit is also a host plant to the Common Buckeye, Phaon Crescent and White Peacock butterfly.

In addition, Frog Fruit Verbena is heat and drought tolerant. It also tolerates poor soil and is deer resistant. HOORAY! This plant super tough and is great for walkways, used as a filler for large open spaces and trouble spots. You can even grow it in containers and it looks great in rock gardens and xeriscapes.

Pick up this versatile ground cover at The Garden Center today! We have plenty on hand in 1 gallon containers for $7.99. See ya soon!

 

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Salvia Greggii

April Plant of the Month

salvia greggiiSalvia greggii is one of our favorite perennials! Also called Autumn Sage, this shrubby plant comes in almost every color you can think of. Salvia greggii is native to Central, West and South Texas as well as Mexico. This is great news not only for your water bill, but for bees, butterflies and hummingbirds too!

Autumn Sage is a perennial, but will sometimes stay green through a mild winter. The oval shaped, olive green leaves grow on long woody stems. These plants can have an upright, bushy or even sprawling growth habit depending on variety.

The flowers of Salvia greggii resemble lips, with the top having a hood shape and the bottom which is wider. Colors can vary from pale yellow to soft pink, hot pink, magenta, coral, red, violet to almost blue! There's also the popular variety, Hot Lips, a bicolor flower of red and white.

One of the best things about these perennials is the blooming season. Expect blooms from spring until the first frost! Removing spent flower stalks and pruning back on occasion will encourage new blooms and a tidy look. All of those flowers will also attract bees, butterflies and hummingbirds! It seems like lots of critters love Salvia greggii, but fortunately, deer are not one of them. While nothing is deer proof, this plant is not their favorite.

Autumn Sage will grow between 12 inches to about 3 feet tall and wide. Your mileage may vary. Plant it in full sun or part sun. A shadier spot may work okay, but you may not get as many blooms. Salvia greggii thrives in rocky, well drained soil and can be planted just about anywhere. It looks great in whiskey barrels or used as a border. Salvia greggii is also drought tolerant once established.

It's no wonder that Salvia greggii is so popular. That's why we decided to put it on this year's spring sales list. Right now at The Garden Center, you can get any variety of Salvia greggi in a one gallon container for only $4.95! Prices are good through May 31st. While you're at it check out all of our other favorites on the list by clicking here!salvia greggii

 

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