Texas Rangers belong to that category of plants that thrive on being ignored.
The reason you do not see more Texas Ranger plants, despite their spectacular autumn bloom, is because of improper care.
After their first year in the ground, they require the tiniest bit of water (if any), no fertilizer and no pruning. No pests, except for soil fungi that proliferate in moist soil, bother them. The reason for their virtual absence in our gardens is due, primarily, to overwatering. These are shrubs that demand a well-drained alkaline soil and, even then, should never need to be watered more than twice a month.
But even before watering comes into play, it is essential that Texas Rangers be planted in perfectly drained soil.
Test your soil by digging a planting hole and filling it with water. After the water drains through, fill the hole again. If, after filling the hole a second time, the water is still standing after an hour, it is too heavy and must be amended with compost or other additives to assure that water drainage is adequate.
The healthiest Texas Ranger I ever saw was a large specimen that, seemingly by a miracle, was blooming adjacent to a freeway entrance ramp near USC. It was at least 6 feet tall and its silver leaves were covered with pink flowers, despite exhaust belched upon it from thousands of passing vehicles each day. Of course I had to park my car and examine its growing conditions.
The soil was a loamy sort of sandpile that was drier than a bone. For several minutes I searched for any kind of a sprinkler by which water could have reached the plant, but my search was in vain.
Today, you can select from around 12 Texas Ranger type shrubs, from 8-foot giants to 3-foot tall, compact ornamentals. The original plant that found its way into the nursery trade was Leucophyllum frutescens. It has the characteristic silver to gray foliage and pink to purple flowers for which Texas Ranger is known.
Varieties include `White Cloud’ with white flowers and `Green Cloud’ with green foliage. You can shear the larger varieties and keep them as hedges, but this will diminish their flowering and shorten their garden life expectancy.
Variegated hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis `Cooperi’), unlike typical hibiscus cultivars, may only grow 3 or 4 feet tall. It has green and white checkered foliage, scarlet flowers up to 4 inches across, and cannot tolerate more than half a day of sun. Dr. Earth has an organic 6-4-6 fertilizer for palms, tropicals and hibiscus that is a good choice for fertilization of your variegated hibiscus.
Wild parasol plant: I received several inquiries about the wild parasol plant that was featured in last week’s column. Appropriately, a nursery called Almost Eden is growing it. You can visit this nursery’s website at www.almostedenplants.com.
When you reach the site, type “Chinese hats,” another one of its common names, into the search box. Both orange and lavender-purple varieties are available.
Q. I have an avocado seed that has sprouted after being placed in a container of water. It is about 7 inches tall and needs to be planted. I was told by someone that even after it is planted outside it will not produce avocados. Is this true?
– Ann Lamb,
A. Your tree is likely to produce avocados eventually, although you would probably want to plant it south of your area since the cold winters of Canyon Country are discouraging to avocado growth.
Seedling avocado trees usually produce fruit in their fifth to seventh year. Quality could be an issue since seedling avocados are highly diverse genetically.
As for quantity of crop, you would get a significantly greater harvest from your tree if your neighbor had a different variety, with one of you having a Hass avocado tree, for instance, and the other having a Fuerte tree. Cross-pollination between varieties increases the crop produced on each tree.