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South Texas Living

Made in the shade or fun in the sun

Made in the shade or fun in the sun
Ornamental peach

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WCN Exclusive
April 16, 2014
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This year’s Plant ID contest -- a lead-in to the Wilson County Gardening Day -- again elicited a great response from readers, with many searching their gray matter to identify the mystery plants, pictured in the Wilson County News each week after the new year, until the event March 1.

Here is more information about this year’s Wilson County Gardening Day Mystery Plants, as they appeared each week in the news.


This is a tropical plant that we use in containers or in the garden. It is available in several size versions, from about 8 inches to 30 inches tall. I like the taller versions because they are showier.

Pentas are in bloom when you purchase them from your favorite nursery and have blooms every day until about Thanksgiving when the cold weather catches up with them. Use pentas in the shade or sun. The small blooms are borne in 3-inch rounded clusters in red, pink, lavender, and white.

Pentas are favorite nectar sources for hummingbirds and butterflies.

Satsuma oranges

These mandarin oranges do very well as a back-yard tree in our area. Grown in half-whiskey barrels, they only grow to 3 feet tall and produce about 20 pieces of fruit per year. In the ground, they can grow 10 to 15 feet tall and produce bushels of fruit.

In addition to the nearly seedless fruit, satsumas are a spectacular landscape plant. The shiny green leaves are evergreen, the white flowers are fragrant, and the fruit is colorful.

Satsumas do have to be protected from temperatures below 26 degrees F. For special cold hardiness, the new varieties on the market are “Arctic Frost” and Orange Frost.


These bulbs are related to daffodils. Planted in full sun or morning sun, they send up lush green foliage in December or January, followed by white flowers. The flowers have a distinctive smell, which can overcome the household when they are forced to bloom indoors.

Paperwhites are special because they naturalize to come back year after year. Paperwhites are also deer- proof.

Plant the bulbs 4 to 6 inches deep anytime during the year. The foliage must be left to brown naturally to maximize next year’s bloom.

Stonewort or Dayflower

The two plants are similar in growth and bloom habit. The stonewort has a lavender flower that begins blooming in February. Dayflower has a blue flower that begins blooming later in the year.

They grow in thickets of lush foliage that is topped by early morning blooms that fade by late morning. This wildflower is a perennial that can be spread by seed or pieces of root. It will grow in shade or sun.

Cats Claw

This plant stumped readers, and no one correctly identified this aggressive vine, which has an attractive waxy yellow bloom that appears several times over the summer. In the nursery trade, it is called yellow honeysuckle, but in real life it is very invasive. It will grow over the top of the trees and even grows across fields.

The prickly “cats claw” grasps everything that comes close. As attractive as the flowers are, I don’t recommend planting the vine.

Ornamental peach

There are a number of ornamental peaches. Most produce fruit, but their main claim to fame is a superior bloom. The flowers are larger than the regular peach tree; they have more red in the blooms and hold the bloom longer.

Grow all peaches in full sun. Enrich sandy soil with compost over an area of 8 square feet or grow them in a raised bed. They do best when irrigated with drip irrigation.


This fleshy-rooted plant is very showy and invincible in California and places like South Africa, but it is relatively hard to grow here. The plants often do well for several years and then decline in the heat and our soil.

The flowers are either blue or white on stalks that may grow to 2 or 3 feet tall.

Viburnum tinus

This evergreen, deer-proof shrub is available in a 3-foot version and 12-foot version. Once established, it is a good xeriscape plant for growing in the shade. Viburnum tinus makes a great tall hedge in the shade.

Every spring, the red flower buds are followed by white blooms and black berries. The flower buds are especially attractive and may last for four weeks. The birds eat the berries very quickly.

Viburnum tinus grow best in morning sun and soil enriched with compost.

Calvin Finch is a horticulturist and the director of the Water Conservation and Technology Center at Texas A&M-San Antonio. Hear him on “Gardening South Texas” on KLUP 930 AM radio Saturdays noon to 2 p.m., and 1-3 p.m. Sundays. Or, email him at

1. Penta
2. Satsuma orange
3. Paperwhite
4. Stonewort or dayflower
5. Cats claw
6. Ornamental peach
7. Agapanthis
8. Viburnum tinus

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