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Agriculture Today

Short-lived Chinese tallow

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July 27, 2011 | 2,842 views | Post a comment

Q. Despite the dry weather we have a Chinese tallow tree that was seeded by the birds. It seems to be prospering. Before I decide whether to remove it, please tell me about it.

A. Chinese tallow is decorative with its silver-backed leaves and rich fall colors. The species produce huge amounts of berries that are eaten by enough birds that the tree spreads quickly from the seed source. It is also sensitive to drought and cold, so is short-lived. The good news is that on poor soils it usually does not get over 30 feet tall, so is not as difficult as other short-lived species to remove.

Q. My cherry tomato plants still look great. There are no spider mites. Can I expect them to produce again this fall?

A. Yes, cut them back by one-third in late July or early August and give each plant 1/2 cup of 19-5-9 lawn fertilizer. The same tactic can be used with large tomatoes, but it is more unusual for them to survive the summer in good shape. Obtain tomato transplants in early August for fall tomatoes.

Q. Thanks for the article on palms. The landscape guy who we just paid thousands to in order to make changes here strongly suggest putting in a Coco plumose. He put one or more of them in for my next-door neighbor, but she’s had problems keeping them through the last couple of winters. You don’t mention them, but I’d love your opinion. Also, I thought it best to wait until the end of summer to add plants, given the drought, but you say plant in summer. I had told the landscaper we’d plant in September. Also would love your thought on this timing.

A. My source for palm information -- Steve Siebert -- says that the Coco plumose is the old Latin binomial for Queen Palm. It grows very fast but is only cold tolerant to 25 degrees Fahrenheit. They are easy to buy in San Antonio but very few survive more than a few years. Select a palm that is more cold-tolerant. Summer is a better time to plant palms than the fall. Steve suggests that you plant Butia capitata, jelly palm, if you’re looking for a feather-leafed palm. Otherwise, in a fan palm, Sabal Mexicana or Sabal palmetto would be an excellent choice and very tropical-looking. Good luck.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the San Antonio Water System’s project director of regional initiatives and special projects. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, e-mail him at

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