Past Articles Library | Texas Superstars
Texas is a big place, with lots of climate zones. It has so many, in fact, that even if you don’t live in Texas, you can usually find a place in it that matches your growing conditions. Why should you care? Well, Texas A&M Extension Service has a program where they test different types of annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees to see if they will grow well in almost all of the state. In fact, the criteria for naming a plant a Texas Superstar® is pretty impressive. The plant must meet the following criteria:
- It must be attractive and useful to the gardening public
- Must be unique and offer desirable and ornamental characteristics not usually available in commonly sold plants
- Must consistently perform well for most Texas consumers regardless of their gardening expertise and growing location
- Must be as pest resistant as possible (and deer proof is an added bonus)
- Must be able to be propagated and mass produced in sufficient numbers to meet increased consumer demand
- Preferably is so attractive in the sales container that it sells itself to consumers who have never heard of the many attributes of the plant.
The Texas Superstar® program started out as a marketing tool to help wholesale and retail nurseries and garden shops sell more plants, hence the last two points above. However, it has also borne a lot of fruit for gardeners, especially in the Southern United States. Texas has four different USDA hardiness zones and fifteen unique land resource areas. Most people will be able to find a place in Texas that is like their home.
It means you can pick up a Texas Superstar® and pretty much know that it will grow for you with minimal inputs of water, fertilizer, and pesticides. Now, you do have to water these plants once a week during the growing season and about once every four weeks in the dormant season. No plant can get away with no inputs, especially water. However, you will rarely need to fertilize or spray your plants for pests.
Plants that are considered Texas Superstars® are marked with a tag in their pot at nurseries. The little tags are sold to nurseries and help fund the program.
Some examples of Texas Superstars® are:
- Annuals.Laura Bush Petunia (Petunia X violacea ‘Laura Bush’ ) This petunia is a cross between VIP and old fashioned petunias. It is hardy to zone seven. This old fashioned petunia has fragrant violet flowers that are very heat tolerant. It also does well even in alkaline soils. It reseeds so will come back year after year. This petunia is twenty-four inches tall and thirty-six inches wide.
- Turk’s Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus var. drummondii) This plant is native to some parts of Texas in zones seven B to eleven. It is a perennial but in colder regions can be planted as an annual. It gets to be two to three feet tall with an equal spread. Turk’s cap blooms in pink or red flowers. The foliage in the cultivar ‘Fiesta’ has variegated leaves. Turk’s cap is drought hardy after it has become established.
- Per-Annual Plants. Firebush (Hamelia patens) This plant is a tropical bedding plant hardy to zone eight. It has dark green foliage and red-orange trumpet flowers. It is a great hummingbird attracter as the hummingbirds are the only ones with a tongue long enough to get to the nectar at the bottom of the flower.
- Shrub. Lynn’s Legacy Cenizo (Leucophyllum langmaniae) is a shrub that grows up to five feet and spreads about the same. It has silvery green leaves and lavender flowers that bloom from early spring to first frost. The plant blooms, then stops blooming for a bit, then blooms again over and over until frost.
- Basham’s Party Pink Crapemyrtle (Lagerstroemia indica × Lagerstroemia fauriei ‘Basham's Party Pink’) This crapemyrtle is one of the best large crapemyrtle for zones eight and hotter. It grows to about twenty to thirty feet tall and has a spread of two thirds of its height. It blooms spring to early summer in a nice soft pink color.
- Specialty Plants. ‘Tycoon’ Tomato (Solanum lycopersicum ‘Tycoon’) ‘Tycoon’ Tomatoes are a round tomato variety that is determinate. It bears all at once. This tomato is resistant to tomato yellow leaf curl virus, Verticillium, Fursarium races one and two, tomato spotted wilt virus as well as nematodes. It grows best when purchased as a seedling rather than when grown from seed. The plants get three to four feet high and spread two to three feet. ‘Tycoon’ tomatoes should be planted in the spring after all danger of frost has passed and in the summer eighty to ninety days before the first frost date in your area.
- ‘Natchez’Blackberry (
- Phalenopsis orchids (Phalaenopsis spp.) Orchids have a reputation for being difficult to grow. This orchid is not and thrives as a houseplant. Just place it near diffuse sunlight near a window in your home. It will grow to be two feet tall and two feet wide. It has beautiful white flowers that last two to three months if the flower is not damaged. This orchid is practically pest free and requires little maintenance.
If you would like to try some Texas Superstars® in your garden, you can go to http://texassuperstar.com/index.html and learn all about the program and get the list of the plants.