Favorite Plants 2011

December 2011

PoinsettiaFavorite Plant:Pointers for Poinsettias
By Merilyn Cranford, Somervell County Master Gardener

Since the weather has cooled and the calendar says it’s December, one of the flowers we all look forward to this time of year is the poinsettia.  They are beautiful and enhance the looks of any home or office.  But sadly, they only last for just a short time.  However, here are a few tips you might try if you would like to coax your poinsettia to bloom again for another year:

  • Christmas:  Pick a colorful plant with tightly clustered yellow buds.  Protect it from hot or cold drafts, water when dry and place in a room with enough natural light for reading.
  • New Year’s:  Apply fertilizer.  Continue light and water.  The plant should remain colorful for many weeks.
  • Valentine’s Day:  If your plant has become long and leggy, prune to 5 inches from the soil.
  • St. Patrick’s Day:  Remove faded and dried parts of the plant.  Add more soil, preferably a commercially-available sterile mix.
  • Memorial Day:  Trim off two or three inches from the ends of branches, to promote side branching.  Repot to larger container.  Move plant outside – first to indirect, then direct light.
  • Fourth of July:  Trim plant again.  Make sure it has full sunlight.  Slightly increase the amount of fertilizer.
  • Labor Day:  Move the plant indoors, but make sure it has six hours of direct light from an uncurtained window.  Reduce fertilizer.
  • First Day of Autumn:  Starting on or near Sept. 21, give plant 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness and 11 hours of bright light per day.  Keep night temperatures in the lower 60s.  Continue to water and fertilize.  Rotate plant each day to give all sides even light.
  • Thanksgiving:  Discontinue day/night treatment.  Put plant in a sunny area.  Reduce water and fertilizer. Then wait for those beautiful blooms to reappear.

I’ve tried to “save” many poinsettias, but this is the only method that works for me.  Good Luck!!

November 2011

Favorite Plant:  Ponytail Palm
By Barbara Lancaster, Somervell County Master Gardener

ponytail-palmCommon Name/Scientific NamePonytail Palm/Beaucarnea recurvata

Native/AdaptedNative to Mexico

Height: 10-20 feet tall if grown outside, but rarely exceeds 10 ft.  It is a slow- growing palm.

Spread: Can reach 12 ft in diameter if grown outside

LightFull sun to partial shade.  It prefers full sun but can also grow in partial shade.


Seasonal Interest: None.

Color/FeaturesMature ponytail palms produce creamy white flowers in spring or summer.  They bloom for several weeks two or three times a year.  Flowers are followed by reddish small fruit, about ½ inch long.

Water Requirements:  Moderate.  Closely related to yuccas and thrive under the same conditions.  Tolerates drought very well.  Likes moist, but well-drained soil.  Allow the soil to dry between watering because it is easy to overwater this palm.

MaintenanceEasy.  To prevent nutritional deficiency, apply good quality palm fertilizer twice a year during growing season.


Deer ResistantUnknown.

Comments/ExperienceI have grown ponytail palms for over 35 years, and have one plant that is at least 35 years old. I grow these in containers.  I have never tried growing one in the ground, but I do move several of my plants outside during the growing season. While they can tolerate cold down to 15º F when mature, my plants are inside during the winter. The ponytail palm is a great indoor plant as long as there is adequate lighting.  My plants have never bloomed.

Source:  www.floridapalmtrees.com

October 2011

Autumn Joy SedumSedum telephium”
by Donna Hagar, Somervell County Master Gardener

autumn joy sedumPlant Group: Perennials.
Native/Adaptive: Adaptive
Hardiness: USDA zones: 3-10.
Mature size: Height 2-3 feet, Width: 2 feet
Flowering period: July through fall.
Flowering attributes: Flower heads form in July and the flat corymbs look like broccoli. In August, the flowers start to color up, turning pink. Slowly the flowers turn red, and later in fall they turn a deeper rusty-red.
Leaf attributes: Succulent, dark green leaves.
Growth habit: Clump-forming.
Water: Drought tolerant once established
Light: Full sun.
Soil: Light, well-drained soil.
Propagation Methods: Stem cuttings.  Division. In early spring pull a rosette off the main plant and transplant the small rosette to a new area in the garden.
Pruning Methods: No pruning is necessary except to clean up dead stems in late fall. If you leave the plant intact over winter, prune out dead stems in early spring.
Notes: Very succulent looking foliage, always thriving no matter where I plant it. Autumn Joy is very easy to propagate though not invasive. I started with one plant, several years and homes ago. I have left many in various landscapes over time and I still have 4 or 5 now – all from the same original plant. They are very hardy and although deer do tend to nibble them, they re-sprout and come back year after year. They look great in rock gardens or as clumping borders. Just do not over water.

September 2011

By Becky Altobelli, Somervell County Master Gardeners

Driving back to Texas after a two-week vacation, my husband and I were speculating to what extent our home lawn and landscape would be damaged after the continuous 100+ degree temperatures and drought they had suffered through. Would there be total devastation or total annihilation of all plant species? We held out little hope of any survivors, much less any green color.

And, yes there was devastation and annihilation, but not total. There in my dry-creek bed was a large mound of dark green leaves with golden-yellow blooms. Called a “miracle plant” by some Texas gardeners, this Texas native’s name is Zexmenia hispida or Wedelia texana. “Miracle plant” because it will grow in rocky, poor, or amended soil with good drainage, sun or partial shade (leggy and lower to the ground in shade with fewer blooms) and heat, cold, and drought tolerant (the proof is in my dry-creek bed this summer).

Zexmenia is a 2-3 ft. semi-evergreen herbaceous shrub and hardy to Zone 7. In our zone it will freeze to the ground in winter, but return in mid-spring. The dark green leaves are rough and hairy as are the stems, lanceolate and irregularly toothed. The daisy-like orange-yellow flowers appear at the ends of bare stalks and will continue to sporadically bloom March to November in our area. You can trim back to one-half in mid-July to encourage more growth and flowering. The mound can spread to 2-3 ft. and with supplemental watering will bloom with more regularity and more profusely. Good drainage and reflective heat encourage maximum health of the zexmenia (note my plant is a true “miracle” this summer in the dry-creek bed surrounded by gravel).

zexmenia up closeZexmenia self-seeds readily from the dried flower heads, but if you want to collect the seeds yourself to use in another location in your landscape, allow the seed heads to dry in place, and re-sow where desired as soon as possible after collection for best results.
An additional benefit to this Texas native is that it is a nectar and a larval plant food for butterflies, and a food source for bees and birds. Personally, I have not noticed any deer or rabbits nibbling on my zexmenia, but some of the scientific resource materials I researched list it as a food source for both.

I bought my zexmenia many springs ago at a native plant nursery and have seen it available through the years. Once you buy your transplant and give it a good home in your landscape, I know you will also find it a welcoming site in late summer when other plants have succumbed to our hot Texas weather.

August 2011

By Joan Orr and Nancy Hillin, Somervell County Master Gardeners

Common Name/ Scientific Name: Obedient Plant/ Physostegia Viginiana
Native/Adaptive: Native perennial wildflower
Height: 24 to 36 inches
Spread: Aggressive by root and seed
Light: Full sun (6 hours) to partial shade
Evergreen/ Deciduous: This is a deciduous plant
Seasonal Interest: Blooms in August to September
Colors/Features: Lance shaped leaves with showy spikes of lavender pink blooms
Water: Average to damp soil
Maintenance: Dead-head flower stalks to prevent seeding and to encourage rebloom.  Prune back in early spring to minimize height and bending.
Wildlife: No serious insect problems.  Butterflies love this plant.
Deer: Deer usually will not be attracted to the Obedient plant.
Comments/ Experience with the plant: The Obedient plant is often mistaken for the Snapdragon plant and is also known as False Dragonhead.  If you plant this showy perennial in slightly acidic soil and keep it evenly moist, it will multiply and could get out of hand.  That being said, it is best to plant it where you really need some color and where you really want it.  For the most part, it is very manageable.   There is a new variety called “Miss Manners” that is not so aggressive.   The individual flowers of this plant will stay in the position you place them in, hence the name, Obedient.  It is an outstanding cut flower and lends itself to floral arrangements beautifully.  Although it does not resemble some of the mint family, its relatives include the Mints, Salvias, Lavenders and Rosemary.

Source: National Home Gardening Perennials
Pictorial Guide to Perennials
Native Texas Plants

July 2011
by Glenda Marsh, Somervell Coounty Master Gardener

Watch closely and you may well see a hummingbird at your blooming red yucca because its flowers are full of nectar! Requiring very little to no maintenance, this evergreen scrub has flowers that can last 30 weeks per year beginning in April and continuing through October

Got deer problems? Fortunately, those pesky deer almost never eat this plant, which lives on rainwater and can be 3 to 4 feet tall. Red yucca is a perennial and hardy in our zone 7 as it tolerates full sun and is considered drought tolerant – just what we need in our area! It should be spaced at least 2 to 4 feet apart. Colorful coral blooms with pale yellow on the inside are the most frequent but solid yellow varieties are also available. Hummers will visit both!

Beware of a few prickly items: the plant has spines with sharp edges, so BE CAREFUL when handling it (i.e. should you want to move it). Some people may be sensitive to the plant and handling may cause skin irritation or allergic reactions and, like any plant, the pollen also may cause allergic reactions. If you have kids or grandkids, parts of the plant are poisonous if ingested. So NO snacking on this plant!

Red Yucca Seed Pods

Red Yucca Seed Pods

Save the seed pods and you can direct sow them outside in the fall or sow indoors before the last frost. You can also propagate them by dividing rhizomes, tubers, corms or bulbs (including offsets).

Take a look at the red yuccas as you drive up and down Highway 67. We have some great examples of this hardy plant right in front of several of our businesses here in Glen Rose!

Good references: www.davesgarden.com Easy Gardens for North Central Texas by Steve Huddleston & Pamela Crawford

Printable Version RedYucca (PDF)


June 2011

Texas Bluebell
By Donna Hagar, Somervell County Master Gardener

bluebell1Common Name/Scientific Name: Eustoma grandiflorum
Description: Gray-green soft, velvety texture foliage on upright stalks; tulip-shaped flowers solitary or in clusters; flowers last for several weeks; hybrids have compact form and double flowers.
Native/Adapted: This is a native annual or short lived perennial wildflower
Height: 18 to 24 inches
Width: 8-12”
Light Requirement: high to medium
Flower Color: native in various shades of blue or purple, hybrids in blue, purple, pink and white
Blooming Period: summer
Foliage Texture: medium

texas bluebell field

Because Bluebells are not a favorite of grazing animals such as cattle, it is not uncommon to see herds grazing among large fields of this beautiful wildflower.

Heat Tolerance: high
Water Requirements: high
Wildlife: Unpalatable to grazing animals, deer resistant

Comments/Experience with the plant:  Bluebells are one of the most striking wildflowers we have! I’ve seen fields of bluebells so dense it appears like a lake or large pond. I have collected seeds from Bluebells and spread them in my flower beds, but they do tend to grow where they prefer, rather than where I plant them!

They definitely prefer moisture, as they grow in the lowest spots of our yard and where seeps occur in our pastures. Because of their moisture preferences, they are more prominent in wet years, but will still produce beautiful blooms, even during dry times. We have many blooming right now!

The Bluebell is disappearing in the wild, presumably because of their beautiful showiness, they have been picked without allowing them to go to seed. The tiny black seeds from dried pods are the size of ground pepper.

May 2011

By Joan Orr, Somervell County Master Gardener

phloxCommon Name/Scientific Name: Phlox/Phlox-Polemoniaceae
Native/Adapted: This is a native perennial wildflower
Four inches to 48 inches
Spread: Will spread some but fairly easy to control
Light:  Sun to light shade
Evergreen/Deciduous: This is a deciduous plant

Seasonal Interest: Blooms in August
Colors/Features: Pink, rose, white and blue
Water: Average to moist
Maintenance: Little to none
Wildlife: Phlox attracts butterflies and hummingbirds
Deer: The deer do not seem to like Phlox
wild-blue-phloxComments/Experience with the plant:  Phlox is known by several common names such as Fall Phlox, Garden Phlox, and Perennial Phlox.  Perennial Phlox grow on long stems with large flower heads of Rosey-Lavender to Soft Pink colors. They are often found growing in the wild.  When Phlox first opens, its fragrance is abundant and very pleasing to humans.  But even after the scent fades for us, it still is a great attractant for butterflies and hummingbirds.

The heads of these flowers are three to five inches across with a cluster that stands about the same height, which is also a draw to most winged creatures.  You may find that the flower heads on White Phlox and also Blue Phlox will not produce as large a flower cluster as some of the other colors.

All totaled, there are about ten varieties of Phlox.  There is a Wild Blue Phlox that is usually found in woody areas and likes to grow in caliche rocks.  P.Maculate(ma-kew-LAH-ta) commonly called Wild Sweet William is just one other variety of this favorite plant.

I have some Phlox that my Grandmother gave me about 40 years ago.  Each and every time I have moved I have left some and taken some with me.   Through the years I have shared this Phlox with many gardening friends and even a few folks I just met.

“When you share flowers with strangers they become your friends.”

Sources: Pictorial Guide to Perennials, National Home Gardening Perennials, Native Texas Plants

March 2011

Cypress/Cardinal Vine
By Bonnah Boyd, Somervell County Master Gardener


cypress_vineCommon Name:  Cypress vine/cardinal vine
Scientific Name:   Ipomoea quanoclit
Adaptable to most areas of Texas
Grow in sun to partial shade

NOTES In spring, once temperatures stay securely above 50 degrees both day and night (April – June), plant seeds in a warm, sunny location in ordinary garden soil 2 to 3 inches apart and 1/2 inch deep.  Firm soil over seeds and keep evenly moist.

Erect well anchored supports at least 6 to 8 feet tall at planting time; strong netting, fence or trellis serve well to hold these climbers.

This annual vine twines up effortlessly and produces feathery foliage.  At midsummer, a profusion of dainty tubular flowers in shades of light pink, rose, white or scarlet open to five-pointed stars.  The blossoms attract hummingbirds.  It reseeds profusely.

February 2011

CANNAS (Canna Lillies)
By Joan Orr, Somervell County Master Gardener

 canna_blacknightCommon name/ Scientific name:  Canna / Canna x generalis
Native/ Adapted: Not a native plant but adapted to this area
Height: One and a half to eight feet
Spread: Will multiply and spread during growing season
Light: Full sun but will tolerate partial shade
Evergreen/ Deciduous: Perennial plant reproduced by seed or rhizomes
Seasonal Interest: Large flowers on bold up-turned leaves start blooming in early summer/a great focal point in any garden
Colors/ Features: Variegated and solid leaf varieties with flowers in an array of colors including red/orange/ salmon/ pink / yellow
Water: Loves water/ will tolerate soggy soil
Maintenance: Some pruning required/mulch during the winter
Wildlife: Hummingbirds and bees favor this plant
Deer: Deer seem to have no interest in cannas

Comments/Experience: My grandmother always liked growing cannas or, as she and some of the old-timers called them, Canna Lillies.  They were and still are a favorite of gardeners because they adjust well to our Texas heat and can tolerate some cold.  I have several cannas in my garden, one of which is a dwarf variety.

Cannas are a hardy plant and tolerate most activities of children and animals.  I have not had any problems with deer eating my cannas.  There is one pest known as the canna leaf-roller that sometimes will come to cannas.  Just pick them off as you see them or be prepared to spray.  Occasionally in drought, grasshoppers can be a problem.  In Latin, the word canna means “reed” and indeed cannas do have a reed-like stalk.

Even though we speak of this plant as a Lilly, it is not in the lilly family.  It is just a dependable easy-to-grow perennial plant.  For best results, plant after the last frost 3-4 inches deep in rich moist soil.  When mature plants flower, cut the spent blooms to produce new growth.  Often, there are new shoots just below the spent blossoms, so take care not to cut those.  Cannas will not fail you.  Just sit back and enjoy their blossoms and beauty.

Source:  Southern Living Annuals and Perennials

January 2011

A Non-Evasive Honeysuckle- The Coral Honeysuckle
By Nancy Hillin, Somervell County Master Gardener

coral honeysuckleCommon Name/Scientific Name: Coral Honeysuckle/Lonicera Sempervirens
Native/Adapted: Native to Texas
Height: 3 to 20 feet runners
Spread: Can be grown as a shrub, ground cover or trellised vine
Light: Full sun to part shade
Evergreen/Deciduous: Evergreen
Seasonal Interest: Normally blooms mid spring and intermittently thereafter
Color/Features: Fiery red to orange slender-trumpet shaped flowers with yellow on the inside followed by bright red berries in the fall
Water Requirements: Moderate watering unless summer is very dry
Maintenance: Every two years prune sparingly in the winter or after blooming in the spring to allow good air circulation /heavy on the mulch/ feeding is usually not necessary
Wildlife: Flowers attract hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. Berries that follow the flowers attract Cardinals, Goldfinches and Robins.
Deer Resistant: Deer do not seem to show an interest in Honeysuckle

Lonicera_sempervirens_massComments/Experience with the plant: Coral Honeysuckle is not aggressive as the common honeysuckle or many of the some one-hundred eighty cultivars of the species.  It is a great companion plant to many other plants such as Coreopsis, Shasta Daisies, and Victoria Blue Salvia.  It will lend itself to any fashion you wish it to be, whether you choose to trellis it or use it as a ground cover.   Hummingbirds, songbirds, bees and butterflies will rush to this honeysuckle, one of nature’s perfect habitats.  The slender-trumpet shaped flowers and the berries that follow in the fall are the draw for many types of birds and insects.  Coral Honeysuckle is a host plant for the Spring Azure Butterfly larva and the Snowberry Clearwing larva.  This honeysuckle is not fragrant, but makes up for it in the showy red to orange colors and with the sweet nectar that brings in many beneficials.  Coral Honeysuckle will tolerate a wide variety of soils, but will fair better if it is mulched frequently.   Propagation may be done by layering at the end of spring, cutting in the summer and by seed in autumn.  Try one of the following named cultivars for your landscape.

Alabama Crimson (scarlet in color)
John Clayton (yellow) named for a botanist from Virginia
Superba (red coral)
Dreer Everlasting (bright scarlet)
Magnifica (red outside-yellow inside)

Sources: Tamu.edu, Simon and Schuster’s Guide to Plants and Flowers

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