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Mark your calendar for an afternoon and evening of free fun with the KPRC Krew, including Randy Lemmon, Pat Gray and Michael Garfield! Enjoy lots of food, beverages, games, prizes and comedy noon-8 p.m. at Spellbinders Variety Theatre in the Marq*E Entertainment Center, Interstate 10 at Silber. And join Chris Baker 2-6 p.m. for a live broadcast featuring Radio Graffiti, Reverse Trivia and more! Listen to TALKRADIO 950 for details.
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|Bullet Proof Perennials
Low-maintenance…Bullet Proof!… Easy-To-Care-For!…No Brainers!… No Fuss! However you want to phrase it, those are some of the catch phrases for just about anyone who would like to grow perennials in the Houston area. There are certainly plenty of lists, in general, regarding perennials for our southern landscapes. But which ones fit that bill of low-maintenance, bullet proof, easy-to-care-for, and no-fuss perennials? The answer is, not as many as I would like to see.
There are dozens upon dozens of perennials that, at any given time, I consider to be my favorites for Texas landscaping. But as I noted, that list becomes much smaller when looking for the Bullet Proof flowering perennials. If you love to garden like I do, but don't have much time to spend weeding, watering, feeding and fussing over such plants, you're going to love this low-maintenance list.
But before I get to that list and description of those perennials, let's discuss the criteria for these No Brainers. First, they have to be truly low-maintenance. In other words, once you plant them and forget about them, they can survive with little to no maintenance once established. Katy Ruellia is a perfect example of such a perennial. Second, these perennials won't die from an insect attack. They can get insects, but if left untreated, they won' necessarily die from such an insect infestation. Purple Verbena and Lantana are great examples of that category. Thirdly, they have to be durable to withstand our intense summers and conversely an average freeze in the high 20s and low 30s won't kill the plant either. They don't necessarily have to be in full-bloom during the summer. Any perennial can thrive in our spring, but how they survive our robust heat and humidity from June through September is what separates these low-maintenance perennials. The last element on my criteria list is that they will flower without the need for mega-doses of bloom enhancing fertilizers.
I don't doubt for a second, that there are many avid gardeners out there that not only will disagree with this list. In fact, some folks may have their own list of no fuss perennials. As I noted earlier, since my list of favorites changes from year to year, I'm certain there are others cherished by some other erstwhile gardeners. Again, this is just my list. Also, one of the unique things about this list of low maintenance perennials is that not all of them bloom at the same time of the year. So, with a little experimentation and trial-and-error, you can figure out a yearlong bloom cycle in one particular garden by placing two or three selections throughout.
YARROW (Achillea millefolium): selection available in red, pink, or white (white form is weedy); fern-leafed foliage; blooms spring and fall; drought tolerant; good groundcover; excellent cut or dried flowers; full sun to part shade; blooms May-July. 1 foot.
MEXICAN HEATHER (Cuphea hyssopiafolia) Debatable for some whether a perennial or shrub; since it regresses severely after winters, I say it's a perennial. Everyone knows it, with purple flowers and mounded form; blooms 6-8 months throughout the year; Usually mounds at 1-2 feet.
DAYLILIES (Hemerocallis) OK, another stretch, these are actually bulbs, but for our discussion I consider them perennial bulbs, and they're easy to care for. Bloom in may shades or orange, yellow, pink and red. Bloom April through May mostly; up to 3 feet.
RAIN LILY (Cooperia) Again, it's a bulb, but because of it's Texas Native quality and easy care attributes, a perennial category; white and yellow blooms that prosper in our summers; blooms July through August; 1-2 feet.
HINCKLEY'S COLUMBINE (Aguilegia Hinkleyana): exotic yellow flowers, delicate foliage; Texas native; moist organic soil; susceptible to spider mites; shade to part shade; blooms March-May; 18 inches.
LOUISIANA PHLOX (Phlox divaricata): purple to magenta pink flowers; blooms in early spring, hardy; drought tolerant; low growing up to 12 inches. Short bloom period, but hardy ground cover year-round; blooms Feb-April.
'NEW GOLD' LANTANA (Lantana camara): many flower colors; shear occasionally; ever-blooming; heat and drought tolerant; sun; blooms spring, summer and fall. 2 feet.
KATY RUELLIA/MEXICAN PETUNIA (Ruellia Brittoniana): purple flowers; ever-blooming invasive; shear occasionally; drought tolerant; hardy; sun; blooms spring, summer and fall. 2 feet.
'INDIGO SPIRES' SALVIA (Salvia hybrid): purple flowers; shear occasionally; very vigorous; excellent; sun; 3 feet.
FIREBUSH (Hamelia patens): red-orange, tubular flowers, prized by hummingbirds; red fall foliage; ever-blooming; drought tolerant; shear occasionally; sun to part shade; hardy; 2 feet.
'TEXAS-TUFF' VERBENA (Verbena hybrid): pink, purple or red flowers; ever-blooming; shear frequently; excellent groundcover; drought tolerant; susceptible to spider mites; sun; 8 inches.
TURK'S CAP (Malvaviscus) Like the Mexican Heather, arguable that it might be a shrub; unique red blooms, heart shaped leaves and hummingbirds love them; Prolific summer bloomer and through the fall; Can get really tall, often up to 5 feet.
CIGAR PLANT (Cuphea micropetala): orange-yellow, cigar shaped flowers; prized by hummingbirds; blooms in fall; drought tolerant; heat loving; sun; 2 feet.
DWARF INDIAN BLANKET (Gaillardia grandiflora): red-yellow, bi-color flowers; ever blooming, remove spent blooms to extend bloom time; heat and drought tolerant; full sun; 1 foot.
SHRIMP PLANT (Justicia Brandegeana): extremely unique yellow or red-brown flowers; blooms April through June mostly. Some flower in fall; great cut flowers; sun to partial shade; 3 feet.
TRAILING LANTANA (Lantana montevidensis): lilac flowers; blooms in spring, summer, fall; very drought tolerant; great as a groundcover, in containers or hanging baskets; sun or partial shade; 1 to 2 feet.
BLUE PLUMBAGO (Plumbago auriculata): clusters of baby blue flowers; drought tolerant; well-drained soil; full to part sun; 2 to 3 feet.
COREOPSIS (Coreopsis grandiflora): yellow flowers, blooms late spring to summer; excellent landscape plant (Baby, Sun, and Early Sunrise are dwarf forms); 2 feet.
Until next issue, here's to
Great Gardening from the GardenLine, heard
exclusively weekend mornings from 8 to noon
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