Texas Superstars joined by special fall additions


November 20, 2003


Vickie Hopkins Doris Martinak, Ann Parks-Hedrick and Kathleen Schmidt

Victoria County Master Gardeners


(All credit for photos to http://texassuperstar.com/index.htm )


In a previous July 31 article in this column, several sun-loving, heat tolerant Texas Superstar plants were identified and addressed. The vibrant coleuses and lantanas were the first four of some 37 Texas Superstars certified through field testing by Texas A&M University about which we chose to write.


Granted the distinction by the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas Superstars, as you will recall, are qualified as such because of their heavy production, disease resistance, insect tolerance, low maintenance and maximum protection for the environment. These plants are not restricted to any particular season of the year. Information on four additional favorites is as follows:


Queen of the fall garden is the mari-mum, which can infuse your garden with newfound color. Mari-mum is derived from a combination of the Texas marigold and chrysanthemum and denotes large flowered American marigolds, which possess a similar flower form, and are used like chrysanthemums in the landscape. However, when compared to fall-planted chrysanthemums, mari-mums will bloom two to three times longer, their open blossoms are more resistant to wind and rain, and they are less expensive to produce. Spider mites are generally not a problem with mari-mums because their rate of reproduction is reduced by cooler temperatures. Mari-mums should be planted in full sun and have good soil drainage.


Discovery yellow and discovery orange are dwarf mari-mum plants that grow 8-10 inches in height and should be planted 8 inches apart. Voyager yellow is a larger mari-mum at 14-16 inches in height and should be planted 12 inches apart. Mulching the bed will reduce water needs and weed contamination. Do not over water. Mari-mums will bloom from September until frost.


Mexican bush sage (click to see photo) is another Texas Superstar and an outstanding plant for South Texas landscapes. It is drought tolerant, pest resistant, deer resistant and adapts easily to almost any soil. This plant actually thrives during our hottest summers but also prevails in more moderate temperatures.


Because it can grow up to 4 feet tall in a season, it is typically planted in the back of a flowerbed with smaller plants in front of it. It has grayish-green leaves with 4- to 6-inch long purple and white velvety spikes at the top of the plant that bloom in late summer and fall. These beautiful spikes can also be used as cut flowers.



Still another Texas Superstar, firebush, also known as firecracker bush, is a sun loving, drought tolerant (once established) plant that will grow in a variety of soils, as long as it has good drainage. Overwatering can kill it. Because hummingbirds and butterflies are attracted to the red tubular blossoms, it is commonly called the "hummingbird bush." An attractive plant that can be used in mass plantings, it does well along a fence line or even as a container plant on a patio. It can even be pruned into beautiful miniature trees. With the approach of fall, cooler temperatures will turn its foliate a gorgeous deep red color.


The final Superstar we will address today, the Texas goldstar esperanza, is at its best during our hottest Texas weather, but it will flourish in South Texas fall temperatures. It should be planted in full sun. No doubt you have noticed this shrub with its cheerful looking, yellow bell-like flowers in bloom in various locations around town.


Yellow bells is a common name for Esperanza. It grows to a height of about 4 feet and 3 feet across. The native Esperanza has smaller leaves and flowers while the Texas goldstar Esperanza has larger leaves and blooms as well as being a more compact shrub.


Esperanzas look wonderful planted either singly or in groups in the yard. They also make excellent plants for large containers. Esperanza is a Spanish word for hope - a beautiful name for a beautiful shrub.


As mentioned above, Superstars are not limited to any season of the year. Remember that your purchase of these plants will assist the Superstar research program by a small percentage of each dollar collected on these trademarked plant labels being applied to the program at Texas A&M University.


Our next article will deal with Texas Superstar roses, and will include one just designated this year. For availability of our first article on Texas Superstars recommended for hot summer gardens, you may access it at the Victoria County Master Gardener Web site at:

http://vcmga.org/2003_Jul31.html  "Texas Superstars are the perfect summer plants."


All articles published in "The Gardeners' Dirt" are on-line and available within a few days after publication date, remaining available for educational reference for Master Gardeners, you, our readers, and the general public.