What’s that fragrance, you say? Does it smell like Grape NeHi Soda? That wonderful grape scent is coming from our native Texas Mountain Laurel. They usually bloom in March, and the blooming period may last 3-4 weeks. The Texas Mountain Laurel is an evergreen native tree that is quite drought tolerant, once established. Establishment can take up to three years, as it does with many trees. The old adage “the first year they sleep, the second year they creep, and the third year they leap” is appropriate for this gorgeous evergreen that can grow to 15’ by 15’. Given adequate care, the Texas Mountain Laurel is a moderate grower, and can grow 1’-2’ per year.
Excellent drainage is a must for this tree, as it will suffer in heavy soils or areas which are seasonally wet. A good practice is to dig the hole and fill it with water before you plant to be sure it will drain in a reasonable length of time. If in doubt, plant it high, and NEVER plant it too deep.
Watch for Genista caterpillars which may be found feeding on the new growth in the spring and fall. Spraying the new growth weekly with either organic product called Bt or Spinosad will prevent feeding damage to this beautiful tree.
Texas Mountain Laurels may be pruned for shape, usually removing the branches which form horizontally in order to give it a more sturdy upright form. These branches should be pruned back to the trunk. Their tops may also be sheared to promote fuller growth, but do not cut back into the woody growth, as there are fewer lateral buds there to fill in the space. A light pruning right after they bloom is acceptable, but do not continue to prune throughout the year, or you will be cutting off next year’s flower buds!
Plant Texas Mountain Laurel with Texas Sage or Silver Bush Germander for contrasting foliage, and Pink Gulf Muhly grass for fall color. Another addition to this drought AND deer resistant ensemble would be New Gold or Chapel Hill Lantana to complete the color ‘palette’!