Shrubs for Victoria County

March 15, 2007

BY MONICA PILAT - VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER

EDITED BY CHARLA BORCHERS LEON

PHOTO BY MONICA PILAT/VICTORIA COUNTY MASTER GARDENER

The ligustrum is a good shrub choice for hedges or privacy screens. It also does well with shaping and pruning for a more formal look, like this tall topiary.

 

Have you caught spring fever yet? The recent good weather patterns are bringing some heavy traffic into our local garden centers, and it seems like everyone is getting that planting itch. If you didn't get a head start in the fall, it's not too late to start thinking about adding some new shrubs to your landscape. When selecting the correct shrub for your landscape, you should consider the following:

*Is the shrub deciduous or evergreen? Avoid selecting deciduous varieties that will drop their leaves in the fall if you want a nice, landscaped look year round.

*Will the area you want to plant provide full sun, shade, part-shade, etc.? Make sure your shrub selection is suited for the sun conditions it will have.

*Is the planting location wet or dry? Not all shrubs can tolerate poor drainage soil conditions; some of our native shrubs prefer a more dry condition.

*Is the shrub cold hardy? Shrub plantings are usually meant to be long term, so make sure you choose a variety that will be able to handle our winter weather conditions.

*What purpose will your shrub serve? If you want to create a formal hedgerow, choose a variety that doesn't mind a lot of pruning or shaping. If you are looking for a privacy screen, choose a variety that will grow as tall as you need. Dwarf varieties are good for bed plantings where you don't have a lot of room to work with.

*What about flowering and fruiting varieties? Shrubs can be another option to providing landscape color without having to switch out annual plantings all year.

*How big will your shrub be in five years? The most common mistake made when planting shrubs is not considering the mature size of the plant. If your shrub has an expected width of 4 feet, make sure you give at least 2 to 2 1/2 feet of clearance on all sides from any permanent fixtures or plantings. This will help you to avoid a lot of extra pruning or plant removal down the road.

If you choose or already have a flowering variety for your yard, make sure to prune to promote a good blooming season. Prune spring flowering shrubs, such as Indian Hawthorn, soon after their blooming season to prevent the forming of buds for the following spring with vigorous summer growth. Pruning in late summer or fall will greatly reduce shrub blooming potential the following spring. For shrubs that bloom later in the year, such as glossy abelia, it is good to prune them in late winter, before the start of vigorous spring growth and bud formation.

Now that we've covered the basics in selecting the right shrub for your home, here are some varieties that work well in our area:

Duranta: This shrub is designated as a Texas Superstar by Texas A&M University. It provides landscape color both with flowers and fruit; it prefers sun for better flowering, but will tolerate shade. In South Texas, this shrub can grow as tall as 12 to 15 feet, but its size really depends on pruning practices. It is semi-evergreen.

Texas sage: This shrub has a mature size of 4-5 feet in height and width with attractive gray-green foliage and purple blooms. This shrub does not need a lot of shaping or heavy pruning and does better in drier conditions, as it can get leggy in heavily irrigated landscapes. It needs full sun and is an evergreen.

Bottlebrush: Sporting interesting bottlebrush-like crimson blooms, this shrub needs full sun for best flowering. Growth can be as much as 6-10 feet tall and half that in width, but smaller dwarf varieties are available. It is semi-evergreen.

Nandina: This shrub survives with little watering and has attractive burgundy foliage in the fall, which remains evergreen throughout winter. Dwarf, non-berrying varieties are not as invasive as taller, berrying types. Dwarf varieties can grow as tall as 3-6 feet and wide as 2-4 feet.

Ligustrum: This is another large, highly adaptable evergreen shrub with mature height of 6-12 feet, making it a good choice for hedges or privacy screens. Some varieties such as Japanese are said to be very invasive, so make sure to do a little research before picking a species. This shrub also does well with shaping and pruning for a more formal look.

Hollies: Several varieties that are suited for Victoria include Burford, Chinese and Dwarf Yaupon, all of which remain evergreen and do well in sun to part shaded areas. Burford can reach 10-15 feet in height and width, has a dark glossy foliage and beautiful red berries. Dwarf Yaupon grows to approximately 2-4 feet in height and width. Holly species are popular choices for formal hedges in the landscape.

Ixora: This beautiful tropical semi-evergreen does better in areas that provide afternoon shade. It provides excellent flower color with a mounding growth habit that is said to get as tall and wide as 5 feet. It does do best in an acid soil though.

Indian Hawthorn: This is another evergreen shrub that blooms mid-spring and berries in mid-summer to fall. It has a mounding growth habit with mature height of 4-6 feet. Be careful not to prune or shape at the wrong time of year, as its flowering potential will be greatly reduced.

Viburnum: There are several species to choose from, but Sandankwa is probably best suited for our area. This evergreen shrub has a mature height and width of 6-8 feet and prefers to have some protection from the afternoon sun.

Of course, do not limit yourself to only these shrubs when making your selection. There are many others available to Victoria landscapes, but not enough space to mention them all. The master gardener training manual lists more than 50 shrubs adapted to our area; yet, remember that not all plants are well suited for all locations. Consult with local nurseries and County Extension agents for more suggestions.