March Plant of the Month
Texas Mountain Laurel,
By Dr. William C. Welch, Professor and Landscape Horticulturist
The Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora secundiflora) is an attractive spring-flowering small tree with glossy, evergreen leaves and beautiful purple wisteria-like blooms smelling of grape Kool-aid. Another name by which it is known is Mescal Bean.
Texas Mountain Laurels usually reach a height of six to twelve feet, which allows them to fit well into the scale of the smaller modern garden. They often produce multiple trunks, and over time grow into show-stopping specimens. Texas Mountain Laurels are generally disease and pest-free, and tolerate a wide range of well-drained soils. They are native to the alkaline soils of the Texas Hill Country, and are often found growing among granite rocks.
Plant Texas Mountain Laurel in full sun or light shade. It will probably not be cold hardy north of Interstate 20. Young trees may be purchased at the nursery, or grown from seed. The seeds may not sprout for several years unless they are first nicked with a file to start the process of germination. An easier way is to collect unripe seed, when it is pinkish in color, in late June or early July before the seed coat has had a chance to harden. Plant them immediately, and they should sprout quickly.
Texas Mountain Laurels are not easily transplanted and may require a year or more to overcome the process. One way to overcome this obstacle is to plant the seeds where you want them in the landscape or to plant them in gallon containers. Container grown plants should be handled carefully to avoid disturbing the root ball.
Although these trees are planted in many neighborhoods in the warmer parts of Texas, children should be warned that the seeds contain a poison.
Texas Mountain Laurels are an excellent source of evergreen foliage and beautiful flowers and require little, if any, irrigation once established. They thrive in the dryer areas of Texas but can be grown in East Texas if planted in well-drained
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