1997 Horticultural Promotions for South Central Texas

Contact Dr. Jerry Parsons, Texas Cooperative Extension, for further details.

Information concerning the following new plant selections will be made available during the following time periods. These news releases are made to acquaint the public with new ornamentals that have been observed for several years and are reliable performers in the greater San Antonio area.

January, 1997

1. "MININPUTS" (Minimum Inputs) Gardening --Managing Garden Pests--The EASY Way (sometimes erroneously called "organic gardening")

2. Color-enhanced Bunny Bloom Larkspur

This selection was made during the last three years in combination with the color development of bluebonnets. The can't-miss-it bunny head is pure white framed by pink petals.

February, 1997

1. Cold-setting Tomatoes Using Heat Tolerant Varieties -- Sunmaster, Surefire And Heatwave BW

A. Sunmaster (Peto Seed Company)

SUNMASTER produces high yields of large uniform fruit. The globe shaped fruit are very firm, have uniform green shoulders and excellent color and flavor. The vigorous, determinate plant produces harvest-ready fruit in approximately 74 days after transplanting. SUNMASTER (V1, F1, F2, St, ASC) is resistant/tolerant to Verticillium wilt race 1, Fusarium wilt races I & II, Stemphyllium and Alternaria Stem Canker. It was looked at to replace Heatwave hybrid of which seed was thought to be unavailable. It produced more fruit than Solar Set, Sunny, HeatMaster and Heatwave in Florida and Texas.


2. Location-specific Turfgrass Selection For Hot & Dry -- Hot & Wet South Texas Growing Conditions

A. 609 Buffalo Grass For Hot, Dry, Low-traffic, Full Sun Areas

When buffalograss is planted in high rainfall areas or when it is irrigated and fertilized, bermudagrass and other weedy grasses invade a stand of buffalograss. Buffalograss is best adapted to low rainfall areas (15 to 30 inches annually) or areas that receive thorough, but infrequent, irrigation.

Buffalograss is not adapted to shaded sites or to sites that receive heavy traffic. Also, under intensive management bermudagrass and other more aggressive grasses tend to replace buffalograss in the lawn.

Buffalograss can be mowed as often as desired at any height (2 -3 inches desired) and is one of the most drought-tolerant grasses in Texas even though it browns during low watering periods.

B. Tifway (419) Bermuda For Full Sun, High Traffic Areas

Tifway (C. dactylon x C. transvaalensis). A chance hybrid that appeared in a lot of seed of C. transvaalensis from Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1954. It is very similar to Tifgreen except for its greater stiffness of leaf blades and darker green color. Released by the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station and Crops Research Division, ARS, USDA, in 1960.

C. Floratam St. Augustine Grass For Shady, Moderate Traffic Areas

Floratam St. Augustine grass was released by the Florida and Texas Agricultural Experiment Stations in 1972 as a SAD virus and chinch bug resistant selection. It has since been observed to be brown patch tolerant. Like other Florida types, Floratam is a vigorous, coarse textured St. Augustine grass variety. Floratam has a purple stigma color and is sterile. Stolons of Floratam are large, purplish-red in color with internodes averaging 3 inches in length. Leaf blades are wider and longer than common St. Augustine grass. According to James Beard, TAEX Turf Researcher, test at A&M concluded it is the most drought-tolerant of all St. Augustine grasses.

Floratam is not as cold tolerant as the common type found in Texas so preconditioning by use of Winterizer fertilizer (3-1-2 or 4-1-2 ratio) in the fall (October) is CRITICAL. Floratam may suffer freeze damage in areas north (cold) and west (dry) of San Antonio. Floratam also lacks the degree of shade tolerance that other St. Augustine grass varieties possess but filtered light through live oak canopies offer the ideal growth environment.

D. Emerald Zoysiagrass For Semi-shaded, High Traffic, Low- Maintenance Areas

Emerald zoysiagrass is a fine leafed, dense growing and dark green turfgrass which is a hybrid between Zoysia japonica and Zoysia tenuifolia released by the U.S.D.A. and the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Station in 1955. Emerald combines the fine texture of Zoysia tenuifolia with the cold tolerance and faster rate of spread of Zoysia japonica. Emerald is similar to Zoysia matrella in appearance and habit. The grass has the same characteristics as Meyer Z-52 Zoysia, but is a finer blade grass. It has been tested for over 40 years and still consistently ranks (performance, appearance, etc.) in the top 5 zoysiagrass cultivars in the world. If a rotary mower is used, the blade must be sharp and mowing should be weekly. The root system is very drought tolerant as the stolons grow underground, which also makes it more cold tolerant. Once established with a dense turf, it is highly weed resistant and wear resistant to foot traffic. Emerald Zoysia provides more weeks of green color in the fall after frosts than bermudagrass, and can grow in moderate shade. Zoysia can be an acceptable turf with low fertilization.

Comment: We believe that four grasses recommended are the best available for the diverse growing conditions of South Central Texas. All of the four recommended, with the possible exception of 609 Buffalo Grass, tolerate and even thrive in periods of excessive rainfall. A study of the drought tolerance of grasses entitled: "Comparative Intraspecies and Interspecies Drought Resistance of Six major Warm-Season Turfgrass Species" was conducted by S. I. Sifers and J. B. Beard at Texas A&M University.

  • Four years of field drought resistance studies were completed on grasses growing on a modified sand root zone.
  • In the fourth year of the study, 29 bermudagrass, 2 seashore paspalum, 2 buffalograss, 8 St. Augustine grass, 6 centipede grass, and 11 zoysiagrass cultivars were subjected to 158 days of progressive water stress with no supplemental irrigations applied and less than 7.5 cm of natural rainfall.
  • Degree of leaf firing was used as an indicator of dehydration avoidance and post-drought shoot recovery was used as the indicator for drought resistance.
  • Significant drought resistance differentials were found across the cultivars and among the species. Results were consistent with the first three years of the study among the bermudagrass, seashore paspalum, St. Augustine grass, and buffalograss cultivars.
  • Among the centipedegrass cultivars only Oklawn fully recovered.
  • Leaf firing of all zoysiagrass cultivars was in excess of 50%. All recovered, except Meyer at 20 percent and Belair at 45% after 30 days.
  • Excellent dehydration avoidance was seen in Floratam and Floralawn St. Augustinegrass. There were large variations in drought resistance among the five St. Augustinegrass cultivars. Floralawn and Floratam showed high green shoot recovery. They showed less than 50% leaf firing after 34 days of drought stress and recoveries of over 90 percent. However, Texas Common and Raleigh St. Augustinegrass as well as Prairie buffalograss showed over 98% leaf firing and less than 20 percent recovery.
  • The performance of Floratam and Floralawn was excellent throughout the study in terms of shoot color, turgidity, and uniformity. They were comparable to 609 Buffalograss.

March, 1997

1. Blue Princess Verbena
(Verbena X Hybrida 'Blue Princess')

Spreading perennial with showy lavender-blue flowers. Discovered in England by Greg Grant, formerly of Lone Star Growers, now Extension Horticulturist for Cherokee County. Zone 8.

2. Capistrano, Sweet Bell Pepper (Peto Seed Company)

This new open pollinated sweet pepper is displacing the standard peppers like California Wonder, Keystone, Rio 66 and Yolo Wonder types because of its higher yield and bigger size. Capistrano has darker thicker walls that can withstand rough handling. This large blocky bell pepper is tolerant/resistant to Tobacco Mosaic Po, and is picked green for the fresh market. It ripens red rather than yellow like the Summer Sweet 860 Hybrid.

3. Grande Hybrid Jalapeno (Peto Seed Company)

This hybrid Jalapeno features larger fruit size (1.5" x 4"). The fruit matures from dark green to red. It has thick walls and medium pungency. GRANDE£s plant is vigorous and produces well, even under stressful growing conditions. Maturity is medium, 75- 80 days from transplanting. It is tolerant/resistant to TEV (Tobacco Etch Virus) and PVY (Potato Virus Y). This is a more uniform selection than the Parsons LJOE (Largest Jalapeno On Earth) TAMU Mild Jalapeno will still be available but is smaller-fruited with resistance to more virus types.

April, 1997

1. Red Mountain Sage (Salvia) Lamiaceae Family

(Salvia darceyi formerly Salvia oresbia cv. 'Red Mountain Sage' Collected and Introduced by YuccaDo Nursery from Nuevo Leon, Mexico (7000 foot altitude), this is a rare salvia with soft pastel green, deltoid leaves that produce long spikes which are covered with large, rich red flowers off and on all summer. Hummingbirds love this plant!. With little attention, this plant has thrived in the original planting location and at the San Antonio Botanical Center for over 8 years and has survived 4 degrees F. (Zone 7-9) Because of the vigorous growth of this plant, cutting back and fertilization will be recommended every 6-8 weeks or May God Have Mercy On Their Souls!! Cutting back can be severe, with the lawnmower and a raised blade, because sprouting occurs from the base unlike Salvia greggi types.

Cutting stock available from San Antonio Botanical Center (contact Paul Cox) or plugs (2 inch) are available from Peterson Brothers Nursery (210-333-6971).

June, 1997

1. Trailing Or Weeping Lavender
(Lantana montevidensis)

Flowers verbena-like, fragrant, lavender-purple with white eye. Blooms spring until frost and into the winter. Can be used as bedding plant, in containers, baskets, xeriscape plantings. Zone 8 (Imperial Purple. TM has darker color).

2. Trailing Or Weeping White (White Lightning.TM)
(Lantana montevidensis)

Flowers verbena-like, fragrant, white. Blooms spring until frost and into the winter. Can be used as bedding plant, in containers, baskets, xeriscape plantings. Zone 8

July, 1997

1. Seeding cosmos for heavenly fall color. Mixing the lavender and yellow cosmos and seeding in sunny beds during the hottest, driest season allows homeowners an inexpensive technique to beautify the fall landscape and "wait for the rain" to sprout the seed.

A. Yellow Cosmos
Cosmos sulphureus (Asteraceae)

A hardy, erect annual requiring very little moisture once established. A native of Mexico, it can easily adapt to all regions of the United States. The glowing, orange-yellow flowersare extremely attractive, constantly blooming for weeks. Leaves are deeply dissected, almost thread-like in appearance. Rich, fertile soils tend to produce unusually tall, lanky plants. Requires full sun. Sow in early fall; seedlings are not winter hardy.

See also information from Wildflowers in bloom.

B. Pink-And- Lavender Cosmos
Cosmos bipinnatus (Asteraceae)

A hardy, erect annual requiring very little moisture once established. A native of Mexico, it can easily adapt to all regions of the United States. The attractive flowers are a mixture of stunning deep crimson, soft pink and pure white. Leaves are deeply dissected, almost threadlike in appearance. Rich, fertile soils tend to produce extremely tall, lanky plants. Requires full sun. Sow in early fall; seedlings are not winter hardy. A real value for the money.

See also information from Wildflowers in bloom.

Plant Statistics:

  • Height: 2-3 feet
  • Germination: 7-21 days
  • Optimum soil temperature for germination: 70-80 degrees F.
  • Sowing depth: 1/16"
  • Blooming period: April-November
  • Suggested use: Roadsides, waste areas, mixtures, floral gardens.
  • Miscellaneous: Blooms quickly. Will need to be replanted each year for continued success.

2. Purple Heart (sometimes called Purple Jew)

The plant that de-uglied South Central Texas during the horrid heat and drought of '96.

Purple Heart is in the Genus Setcreasea which has nine species of the spiderwort family Commelinaceae. Purple Heart was discovered in a window box at the Tampico, Mexico, airport and named in the early 1950's by a Puerto Rican nurseryman. In 1955 the newcomer was described and given the scientific name Setcreasea purpurea but later redefined as a variety of Setcreasea pallida.

Setcreaseas are more or less succulent, trailing, clambering, or erect with thickish roots and fleshy stems. The lavender to purple flowers are in terminal clusters, each partly enveloped by a pair of leaf bracts.

Purple Heart is a native to dry and semidesert parts of Mexico. It is trailer or creeper with the young parts of its shoots erect. In warmer parts of Texas, the plants never freeze so the planting can become overgrown and "snaky"; in colder climates the plant is root hardy -- the top freezes and is removed but it resprouts from the roots -- and has the attractive purple shoots during the hottest, driest part of the summer. Gardeners who live in warmer climates can enjoy the same beauty from this plant by mowing it off or raking the tops away every winter.

It is a beautiful purple plant which lives in shade or sun; with little or no water; can be weeded (if bermuda grass dares invade its territory) with a one-half strength glyphosate (Roundup, Kleanup) spray; and has a pretty little bloom at the tip of each stem. Many have called this plant Purple Jew because it is in the Wandering Jew family but we prefer the name Purple Heart.

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