the show

Texas Superstar Plants

air date: April 28, 2012

Find out what it takes to be a Texas Superstar plant! Brent Pemberton from Texas A & M, Texas AgriLife Research picks out a few that stood up to tough testing, like in your garden! On tour, visit a butterfly garden in Bulverde. Daphne features Texas sage (cenizo) another super shrub for drought and wildlife. She answers a viewer question: how should we clean or sterilize our pots? Trisha Shirey demonstrates how to divide container and garden plants.

Episode Segments

On Tour

Bulverde Spring Branch Library design

Butterflies, birds, and other wildlife greet patrons of the Bulverde/Spring Branch Library, who check out more than books these days. Thanks to the Comal County Master Gardeners and Friends of the Library, a rocky slope at the end of the parking lot is now an instructional guide to gardening and wildlife, plus an outdoor haven to read a book!

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Question of the Week

Do I need to clean or sterilize my containers before planting again?

Thanks to Nettie Birnbaum for this great question! She asks, “Do we need to clean plastic six packs or pots and clay pots to reuse them for cuttings or to plant new container plants? How should we do it and do we need to sterilize them against disease?”

Well Nettie, the answer is a resounding yes. All pots should be cleaned and gently scrubbed before re-use. Although the likelihood of contamination is low, it’s always better to err on the side of caution. At the very least use a warm, slightly soapy liquid and a scrub brush to remove all remaining debris from the container.

You should also, whenever possible, use a weak bleach solution to disinfect any possible microbes, especially in square containers, like those six-packs, where it’s almost impossible to get all the potting soil out of the corners.

To make a 10% bleach solution, simply mix one part bleach to nine parts water. Be sure to rinse those bleached containers, and allow them to thoroughly dry before reusing them.

And just a reminder about repotting plants. In containers, plants prefer to be crowded, so don’t use too large a container. A good rule of thumb is to move up only one container size, for example from a 4″ pot to a 6″ one, when transplanting container plants. And if you’re creating a container with multiple different plants, maybe for a splash of annual color near your porch or patio, be sure to fill the container entirely, with each plant almost on top of the other one, so that you can barely, if at all, see the soil.

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Plant of the Week

Cenizo (Texas Sage)

Cenizo (Texas Sage)

Leucophyllum frutescens

Texas sage is also known as Texas sage, purple sage, Texas ranger, and many other common names. Cenizo is extremely drought tough and needs very little water once established. In fact, this shrub does not like 'wet feet,' so be very careful if planting in clay soils. Cenizos require full sun to bloom and be healthy, and really don't tolerate shady areas. There are a multitude of different varieties of cenizo to choose from, differing not only in leaf and flower color, but also in height and width. So when choosing this plant, be careful to get a variety that has the characteristics that you want, especially when it comes to size. Cenizo does not respond well to heavy pruning, so if it outgrows its space in your landscape, you won't be able to prune it back and keep it smaller. Overly-pruned cenizos will show lots of die-back, especially in the center of the plant, with only a little growth at the tips. Unfortunately, this shrub is often planted in rows and sheared back to make a hedge. This is not a good practice, and will cause the shrubs to look very ugly, twiggy, and almost dead. Which they will be, since most of the living tissue will have been removed. The most common cenizos have gray-green leaves with light lavender flowers. But you may also found varieties with a greener leaf and deeper lavender blooms. More rarely, you may even find some with white blooms. Some will also have more and larger flowers than others, giving you a wide palette to choose from. I have seen Texas sages abandoned by the side of the freeway in El Paso, happily blooming their heads off in the full heat of summer, after the rainy season has arrived. These west Texas natives are also known as barometer bush, because they bloom in response to heat and relative humidity, leading some to say that they are good predictors of rain.