April 10, 2008

By Shea Kelly,
Victoria County Master Gardener Intern

Edited by Charla Borchers Leon,
Victoria County Master Gardener
Mountain laurel makes a wonderful shrub with flowers reminiscent of a freshly poured grape drink.   In bloom right now, the swallow tail butterflies love them.
This time of the year is my favorite time of the seasons - you start to get that planting fever; you come up with great ideas to transplant, start new flower beds and propagate new plants or buy new ones. Before you know it, you’re swamped with work to do, but you are loving it.

Several Shrubs

• Mountain laurel
The smell of mountain laurel reminds me of enjoying a grape drink. Most of them are full of blooms right now, and the swallow tail butterflies love them. Honey bees also have their share. Mountain laurel blooms stay open for several weeks and make wonderful arrangements. Mountain laurels can be trained to be shrubs as well as small trees.

• Crape myrtle
Crape myrtle is another one of my favorites. This shrub has medium green leaves, with many blooms in individual colors. They make great accents, specimens and hedges. The sun is not a problem for these beautiful shrubs and they need full access to it. Crape myrtles like a lot of room, so don’t forget to plant them in an open area, allowing plenty of room for growth. Crape myrtles can be propagated from cuttings in the late fall to winter with semi-hard cuttings or in summer with softwood cuttings.

• Shrub roses
If roses are your forté there are all kinds of “shrub roses”, a catchall name for roses that tend to be bushy and are helpful for erosion prevention on sloping land. These include English, ground cover, landscape and hedge roses along with many others. These all repeat blooms and are very fragrant.

Shrubs are a fundamental and essential part of most landscaping designs. Shrubs are the primary plant material used to shape spaces, create structure, and enhance your home or business. I’ve learned over the years that landscaping can provide privacy; it can screen views and guide traffic patterns. Don’t forget, planting the right shrub in the right location is critical to the plant’s health and of course your happiness with it. You need to always make sure to consider the growing condition of the area, the size limitation, the purpose of the planting and the characteristics you want the shrub to have.

I’ve killed many plants and wasted time and money, learning about the hot Texas sun.  Wait until the season is right to plant shrubs.  October through March is a great planting season for shrubs in our area. October through early December is especially good. This allows roots to grow readily at that time of the year. When doing this, it allows shrubs to make root growth before May and get pretty much established before the hot Texas weather. Shrubs are mostly sold as container grown plants, and on occasion, large specimens are available balled and burlapped.

Bed Preparation

It is important to remember to remove all unwanted vegetation from your bed area. Weeds and turf grass may be removed physically, or eliminated with a weed control aid (follow all label directions carefully). Don’t forget to have soil tested before planting. Call Victoria County Extension office at 361-575-4581 or see the web site http://victoria-co.tamu.edu/ for further help.


Make sure the spacing and arrangement are proper before going to the next step of digging a hole just deep enough so the root ball sits level with the soil but somewhat wider so the roots have plenty of room to expand outward. As you remove the shrub from the container, watch carefully to make sure the roots are not tightly packed in a soil mass. If so, cut or pull apart the root system slightly along the outer edges. Doing this will help the roots grow into the surrounding soil.  After planting your shrubs, water by hand, soaking it well, to help settle the soil. Thereafter, periodic watering is very important, especially the first year after planting.


The best time to fertilize shrubs is in early spring, when rapid growth is desired, then again in late April or May. If you feed with slow release granular fertilizer it will last for about 6-8 weeks. Applied in early spring it supplies nutrients for shrubs during their primary growth period from spring to summer. Without information from a completed soil test, the best recommendation is to use a balanced fertilizer such as in 8:8:8 fertilizer.  Also read the label when applying fertilizer and do not over apply. If you have acid loving plants such as azaleas, camellias, and gardenias, they may occasionally have problems with iron deficiencies and may require fertilizers rich in available or chelated iron.

Pest Control

Insects are another occasional problem on some shrubs. A few popular shrubs have fairly common pest problems such as lace bugs on azaleas and whiteflies on gardenias, but I recommend simply monitor the shrubs and deal with pest problems as they occur. Some of the common insect pests that are on shrubs are lace bugs, scale, whiteflies, caterpillars and aphids. Insect control aids commonly used to control these pests are available in local stores. Spider mites are an occasional problem during hot, dry weather.


Diseases too can be very destructive, particularly root rot. The best defense against root rot is choosing well adapted or recommended plants and providing good drainage.

Bed preparation, planting the proper flowering shrub, fertilizing, and pest control are all a part of having a successful, functional, and beautiful landscape.  Researching and using recommended procedures and plant varieties will provide you with increased knowledge, a higher quality landscape and a greater enjoyment of the outdoors.

Lunch and Learn with the Masters

Monday, April 14

Noon to 1:00 p.m.

Pattie Dodson Health Center
2805 North Navarro

Sponsored by Victoria County Master Gardener Association and
Texas AgriLife Extension Service -Victoria County

This month’s training will be on Budding & Grafting Ornamentals, Fruits & Nuts presented by James Rother, Hallettsville Pecan Grower (formally of Victoria) and Joe Janak, Victoria County Extension Agent - Ag/NR. All are invited to bring their lunch and join in.