Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Texas Mountain Laurel

I'm going to start this series with a tree that is going to be seen in our gardening centers from now until bloom time.  This remarkable plant goes unnoticed for most of the year until it pops out of nowhere with its' purple and super fragrant flowers!  But even without the flowers, this tree/bush is evergreen all year round and endures our extreme sun......even better, it came out on top after our severe freeze in the garden.  The leaves are super green and lush on my plant.  This plant is xeric, takes full sun, and is green all year round!  I think many people take the TML for granted.  It's all over Tucson and one of the top performing plants here in our desert.  It can grow to be 30 feet tall and 20 feet wide.  There are many large specimens in a row near the airforce base on the center medians of the road.  However, I have noticed that most aren't 30 feet here as they average about 15-20 feet tall.  They are wide and can be grown as a tree or bush.  Roots are very shallow, and will require adequate drainage. The orange-red seeds have a very hard shell covering a very poisonous seed which can be grown in our gardens.  If you are interested in propogating this plant, take the hard bean pods off the plant and take out the poisoness red/orange seeds.  Put them in water overnight and nick the seed to encourage growth.  The seeds are extremely hard.

This is a great plant to have in your garden all year round.  It will survive anything once established.  It's attractive to the Genista catepillar which eventually will become the brown night flying moth. Very little chews on this plant, but you will see, every now and again, a plant has attracted an uninvited guest:)  These plants are extremely popular in spring at your nearest garden center and then they seem to disappear off the shelves.  The flowers are what call people's attention because they smell like grape kool aid and are extremely fragrant.  I usually see flowers late March that will last through April.  Some years, like last, my plant didn't produce any flowers.  I'm crossing my fingers that this year will be different.  The con(you knew it was coming:) to this plant is that it grows slowly.  So if you're looking for something to fill in a space quickly, this is not the plant to choose for your garden.  The seeds, if you choose to plant them, can take years to germinate!  Many gardeners forget that they planted them until they see the plant pop up in the soil. However, if you're patient, this plant is a superstar in the garden!  More plants on the way......


  1. TX Mountain Laurel has been a favorite, since a family trip to Carlsbad Caverns as a teen. The incredible scent of it's blooms in the warm breeze will always remain with me.

    While its slow growth is a downer, a larger downer is that nurseries *still* don't grow this from enough different climatic provenances and sizes / in quantities - especially large, specimen sizes (>6'-8').

    Oh well, another business opportunity when I get more time and money...

  2. Here's an update on the Texas Laurel folks.....my small tree shrub is doing really well. Two full beautiful blooms on the plant and it has not only survived our harsh summers but the bad freeze of last year. This is a definite must for your Tucson landscape. Green ALL year round and no leaf mess. Only drawback...slow growing.

  3. I planted mine about 3 years ago and this is the first year I've had blooms. But it was well worth the wait!! Such a beautiful, fragrant bloomer that I wish I had planted many more. Absolutely love it.

  4. I seem to have missed some of your posts, so I'm going back and checking them out. I love these trees and want one in my yard.


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