Texas mountain laurel poisonous

Texas Mountain Laurel

Texas Mountain Laurel has a slow growth rate. Purchase a 15-gallon specimen from a nursery to enjoy its immediate beauty. Transplant it in the spring or fall. Texas mountain laurel likes rocky soils, but it will tolerate planting in or near turf, as long as the soil is deep and drains well. Although it can survive on annual rainfall, supplemental irrigation is usually required in central and southern Arizona. It does best when planted in full sun locations and given deep, regular irrigations. Newly planted Texas mountain laurel needs watering every 3-4 days for the first few weeks. Then, water every 4-7 days for the first year. Water established plants every week in the summer, every 2-3 weeks in the spring and once a month in the fall and winter. Train Texas mountain laurel into a small tree by continually shearing low growing branches and elevating the crown during the growing season. If overly pruned, it is slow to recover. Texas mountain laurel is not normally susceptible to disease. One pest to be concerned about is the genista caterpillar that feeds on its leaves, young twig growth and immature seed pods. Young Texas mountain laurel trees should be checked frequently for caterpillar infestations. Remove the caterpillars by hand or with water spray from a garden hose. Severe infestations of genista caterpillars may be treated with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt), a bacterial insecticide that only kills the caterpillars.

Sophora secundiflora

  • Attributes: Genus: Sophora Species: secundiflora Family: Fabaceae Life Cycle: Perennial Recommended Propagation Strategy: Seed Country Or Region Of Origin: Mexico and Southwestern USA Particularly Resistant To (Insects/Diseases/Other Problems): drought
  • Whole Plant Traits: Plant Type: Poisonous Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Habit/Form: Erect Rounded Growth Rate: Slow
  • Cultural Conditions: Light: Full sun (6 or more hours of direct sunlight a day) Partial Shade (Direct sunlight only part of the day, 2-6 hours) Soil Texture: Clay Loam (Silt) Sand Shallow Rocky Soil Drainage: Good Drainage Moist Occasionally Dry Usda Plant Hardiness Zone: 7a, 7b, 8a, 8b, 9a, 9b, 10a, 10b
  • Fruit: Fruit Color: Red/Burgundy Fruit Type: Legume Fruit Description: Woody pod with bright red, poisonous seeds.
  • Flowers: Flower Color: Blue Purple/Lavender Flower Inflorescence: Raceme Flower Value To Gardener: Fragrant Showy Flower Bloom Time: Spring Flower Size: 3-6 inches Flower Description: Pea-like violet-blue flowers. The flowers, in 3 to 7 inch drooping clusters, are very showy and fragrant.
  • Leaves: Leaf Characteristics: Broadleaf Evergreen Leaf Color: Green Leaf Feel: Glossy Leathery Leaf Type: Compound (Pinnately , Bipinnately, Palmately) Leaf Arrangement: Alternate Leaf Margin: Entire Hairs Present: No Leaf Length: 1-3 inches Leaf Description: Pinnately divided with 7-9 leaflets, notched, silky below. The dense and glossy compound leaves are composed of 7 to 9 shiny, leathery leaflets that are rounded on the ends. The leaflets are up to 2 inches or more long, tapering more gradually to the base than to the tip, and arranged along an axis terminated by a single leaflet .
  • Stem: Stem Is Aromatic: No
  • Landscape: Resistance To Challenges: Drought
  • Poisonous to Humans: Poison Severity: Low Poison Symptoms: The seeds of this plant, which are often used in making necklaces, are mildly poisonous if eaten. The poisonous elements of this plant resemble nicotine in its actions and toxicity. If seeds are ingested, it can lead to vomiting, diarrhea, excitement, delirium, and coma. Poison Toxic Principle: Alkaloids Causes Contact Dermatitis: No Poison Part: Seeds

Texas Mountain Laurel

  • Very showy small tree
  • Fragrant, early spring blooms of violet-blue flowers in terminal clusters
  • Evergreen
  • Low maintenance tree
  • Attracts hummingbirds

Texas Mountain Laurel trees (Sophora secundiflora) are a favorite flowering tree throughout the Southwest, and it’s one that is sure to add curb appeal! They are native to Texas, New Mexico, and northern Mexico, and this small tree turns heads, especially when the fragrant, early spring bloom of violet-blue flowers make an appearance, attracting hummingbirds and helping to make your yard the most attractive one on the block! Their smaller size makes them perfect for tight spaces, so we like to plant them in courtyards, in a front entryway, or in a sunny patio area! Visit your local Moon Valley Nursery and feel free to speak with our professional landscape designer who will be happy to show you how to utilize your space with these gorgeous trees!

There’s no doubt that the Texas Mountain Laurel tree is an ornamental beauty and it gets bonus points because it’s an evergreen with a sturdy structure that can keep its leaves all year long. They like to grow in a location that gets plenty of full sun exposure, and they’re water-wise too, so once established they will have little to moderate watering needs. For best results feed them with our Moon Valley fertilizer before new growth begins in spring.

These trees have a slow growth rate, so if you’re looking for the tree right now, that can be used as a windbreak, we recommend buying as big as you can. Moon Valley Nurseries is the grower of the biggest and best Texas Mountain Laurel trees so that we can assure their quality! Consider adding companion plants such as Lantana or Heavenly Bamboo, available at our nurseries! Visit us today, and we will be glad to help you handpick the perfect Mountain Laurel trees as well as the perfect trees, shrubs, and other plants for the perfect spot in your yard!

Mountain Laurel, Mescalbean

Sophora secundiflora (Ort.) Lag. ex DC
Fabaceae (Legume Family)

Mountain laurel is a small, evergreen tree or shrub, that can grow to 30 feet tall. Its hardy nature and attractive, deep green foliage makes this tree a desirable landscaping plant. The beautiful purple flowers appear early in the spring, producing a literally intoxicating aroma. Mountain laurel is native to the drier regions of the Edwards Plateau and the Trans-Pecos into southeastern New Mexico, and along rocky outcrops in the Rio Grande Plains. It grows throughout much of northeastern and north central Mexico, southward along the Sierra Madre Oriental (Cox and Leslie 1988; Powell 1998). The tree produces a tough woody bean pod that houses bright red, hard, seeds commonly referred to as mescalbeans. Mescalbeans are poisonous, yet they were used by native socities for ritual purposes, because of its powerful psychoactive properties. The bright red beans were also used for ornamentation.

The common name mescalbean has caused a lot of confusion with mescal, an alcoholic drink distilled from the baked and fermented hearts of agave. The best known type of mescal is tequila, which is made from cultivated “blue agave,”Agave tequiliana Weber (Gentry 1982:14-16). By contrast, mescalbean is the seed of the mountain laurel, a small tree in the legume or bean family. Unfortunately, the term mescalbean is imbedded in the literature. Therefore during this discussion, I will follow the example set by Merrill (1977) and refer to the seed as a mescalbean, but I will refer to the tree as a mountain laurel.

Archeological occurrence. Fruit pods from the mountain laurel and mescalbeans are ubiquitous throughout the dry archeological deposits of the Lower Pecos Canyonlands (Dering 1979; Irving 1966). Radiocarbon dates from Hinds Cave, indicate that mescalbeans were brought into the shelters in the Lower Pecos region at least as early as 6,500 years ago and probably much earlier. Mescalbeans have been recovered from several rockshelters to the east in Edwards County. They may be present in collections from Frightful Cave in the Cuatrocienegas Basin of Coahuila, Mexico (Adovasio and Fry 1976; Butler 1948; Campbell 1957; Merrill 1977; Taylor 1988). Cueva Candelaria, in the southwestern corner of Coahuila, contains necklaces made of bone and unidentified seeds that resemble discolored mescalbean seeds (Arroyo de Anda et al. 1956:125).

Although most of the mescalbeans and pods occur widely in the midden, or trash deposits of archeological sites in the region of southwestern Texas, they have been noted in more specific contexts. For example, a buckskin loincloth decorated with mescalbeans was recovered from Murrah Cave (Holden 1937; Boyd 2003). Another discovery attests to the importance of these seeds in the ancient culture of the region. This is illustrated by their presence in a carefully buried bag from Horseshoe Ranch Cave in southern Val Verde County. This bag contained mescalbeans and Mexican buckeye seeds, both poisonous, as well as a flintknapper’s tools, jackrabbit mandibles, fiber, sinew, a buckskin thong, and red ochre. This kit has been described as a hunter’s kit or a healer’s kit (Butler 1948; Shafer and Zintgraff 1986; Boyd and Dering 2005), and given the interwoven nature of religion and subsistence in a hunter-gatherer life, it probably served as both.

Chemical composition. Mescalbeans contain an abundance of poisonous narcotic quinolizidine alkaloids, including cystine, N-methylcistine, and sparteine. The many physiological effects of mescalbean intoxication include muscle paralysis, nausea, evacuation of the bowels, seeing red, unconsciousness, and death (Hatfield et al. 1977). These alkaloids are not, however, hallucinogenic, rather, the mescalbean and its purgative effects, along with many other sensory inputs, helped the vision-seeker reach a culturally defined condition in which to receive visions (Merrill 1977:4). Because of its extreme physiological effects, the mountain laurel tree, or at least its seed, was likely viewed as a powerful plant worthy of trade and of decorating ritual clothing.

In the following sections I briefly relate the use of mescalbean in ceremonies and material culture. This subject has been covered in a monograph by William Merrill (1977) and I refer the reader to this detailed scholarly account for more information.

Religion and ritual. There is tremendous time depth for the use of mescalbean, and likely for its cultural significance among Native Americans of the territory now covered by Texas and Mexico as noted by the archeological record. However, the use of the mescalbean spread far beyond the natural territory of the mountain laurel tree during the historic period. The 19th century, a period of tragic upheaval for Indian peoples, saw the rise of several societies or revitalization movements, including the rise and spread of the mescalbean society. Details of these societies varied from group to group but they generally limited membership to men, and typically consumed a concoction made from mescalbeans during at least some ceremonies. In some groups only novitiates consumed mescalbeans (eg. Pawnee and Wichita); in a few groups, such as some of the displaced Algonquian-speaking groups (eg. Sac, Fox, Shawnee), there is no record of consumption, only a record of the society. Membership was restrictive and often the new member had to buy his way into the society.

Some groups attached the mescalbean only to objects associated with ritual. For example they attached the seeds to objects, or kept them in medicine bundles, owned by men usually belonging to a mescalbean medicine society. These groups included the Pawnee, Wichita, Iowa, Oto, Omaha, Ponca Missouri, and Osage. The Wichita and Pawnee associated mescalbeans with deer ceremonialism. And, attesting to the recent rise of mescalbean use, many groups associated mescalbeans with horses, and with success in raiding expeditions.

Ceremonial use of mescalbeans was not limited to groups that had restrictive mescalbean societies. Among some Coahuilteco-speaking groups, the Hasinai Caddo, and the Tonkawa, observers noted that both men and women participated in mescalbean-centered ceremonies. The Hasinai used the mescalbean in ceremonies to produce visions and prior to conducting raids. The bright red mescalbeans were associated with warfare, and appear on clothing worn into battle (Swanton 1942; Vogel 1970) .

Hasinai, Coahuilteco, and Tonkawa mixed mescalbeans into other intoxicating drinks. The Mescalero Apache apparently once mixed the seeds with tulbai (corn beer), but this account contains such odd details that it casts into doubt the veracity of the informant (Castetter and Opler 1936:54).

Clothing, and other objects. Many groups utilized mescalbeans in clothing and adornment but did not maintain a mescal bean society. These include the Shawnee, Delaware, Kickapoo, Sac Fox, Kiowa-Apache, Western Apache, and the Tewa. Mescalbeans were used to decorate shirts, leggings, bags, necklaces, dresses, bandoleers, warrior dolls, and medicine bags.

Medicine. Mescalbeans were apparently used in a few medical applications. The Comanche used the seeds for earaches. The Cheyenne used the beans as an eyewash and consumed the mescalbean in ceremonies not associated directly with mescalbean societies.

Adovasio, James M. and Gary Fry
1976 Prehistoric Psychotropic Drug Use in Northeastern Mexico and Trans-Pecos Texas. Economic Botany 30:94-96.

Arroyo de Anda, Luis Aveleyra, Manuel Maldonado-Koerdell, and Pablo Martinez del Rio
1956 Cueva del la Candelaria: Volumen I. Memorias del Instituto Nacional de Antropología e Historia. Mexico, D.F.

Boyd, Carolyn E.
2003 Rock Art of the Lower Pecos. Texas A&M University Press. College Station, Texas.

Boyd, Carolyn E. and J. Philip Dering
2005 Tools of the Shaman or the Hunter? A Review of Material Culture in the Lower Pecos Region of Texas and Mexico. Presented at the 70th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, March 31, 2005. Salt Lake City, Utah.

Butler, Charles T,, Jr.
1948 A West Texas Rock Shelter. Unpublished M.A. Thesis. University of Texas at Austin. Austin, Texas.

Campbell, Thomas N.
1957 The Fields Shelter: An Archeological Site in Edwards County, Texas. The Texas Journal of Science 9:7-25.

Castetter Edward F. and Morris Opler
1936 The Ethnobiology of the Chiricahua and Mescalero Apache: A. The Use of Plants for Foods, Beverages, and Narcotics. Ethnobiological Studies in the American Southwest. Vol. III. The University of New Mexico Bulletin, Biological Series 4(5). Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Cox, Paul and Patty Leslie
1988 Texas Trees: A Friendly Guide. Corona Publishing Co. San Antonio, Texas

Dering, J. Philip
1979 Pollen and Plant Macrofossil Vegetation Record Recovered from Hinds Cave, Val Verde County, Texas. Unpublished Masters Thesis. Texas A&M University. College Station, Texas.

Gentry, Howard S.
1982 Agaves of Continental North America. University of Arizona Press. Tucson, Arizona.

Holden, William C.
1937 Excavation of Murrah Cave. Bulletin of the Texas Archeological and Paleontological Society 9:48-23.

Merrill, William L.
1977 An Investigation of Ethnographic and Archaeological Specimens of Mescalbeans (Sophora secundiflora) in American Museums. Museum of Anthropology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.

Pennington, Campbell W.
1969 The Tepehuan of Chihuahua: Their Material Culture. University of Utah Press, Salt Lake City, Utah.

Powell, A. Michael
1998 Trees and Shrubs of the Trans-Pecos and Adjacent Areas. University of Texas Press. Austin, Texas

Robbins, Wilfred William, John Peabody Harrington, and Barbara Freire-Marreco
1916 Ethnobotany of the Tewa Indians. Bureau of American Ethnology Bulletin 55. Smithsonian Institution. Washington, D.C.

Taylor, Walter W.
1988 Contribution to Coahuila Archaeology with an Introduction to the Coahuila Project. Southern Illinois University at Carbondale Center for Archaeological Investigations Report No. 52. Carbondale, Illinois.

Vogel, Virgil
1970 American Indian Medicine. University of Oklahoma Press. Norman, Oklahoma.

Gardening How-to Articles

Mountain Laurel: A Shade-Tolerant Native With Beautiful Blossoms

By Jeanne Rostaing | June 3, 2016

When it comes to spectacular flowers, most city gardeners have limited choices. The narrow plots typically found behind most brownstones and row houses get little light due to neighboring trees and adjacent buildings, so using showy plants that require hours of full sun is not realistic.

One often overlooked option is mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia). This shade-tolerant North American shrub has gorgeous flowers that bloom in late spring and early summer. A close relative of rhododendrons and azaleas, it’s an excellent choice for a shady garden. It’s also evergreen, so even after the blooms have faded, its leathery deep green foliage provides a welcome sign of life. Even in the coldest winter weather, when rhododendron leaves have curled in on themselves, mountain laurel remains bravely open to the elements.

Why Is It So Special?

In addition to being tolerant of shade, Kalmia latifolia produces exquisite clusters of delicate, fused-petal blossoms that resemble tiny origami rice bowls. When the buds burst open in May or June, the branches are virtually obscured by blooms. They can range from white to pink to deep rose and are distinctively tattooed with symmetrical maroon or purple dots or streaks. The bell-like flowers have a very unusual way of dispensing pollen. Their stamens are arched, with the tips held under the rim of the bell. When a bee or other pollinator lands on the flower, the weight of the insect releases the stamen, which flings up the pollen like a catapult.


Mountain laurel is a member of the heath or heather family, Ericaceae. This family includes rhododendrons, azaleas, blueberries, and cranberries, all of which are woody shrubs that thrive in moist, well-drained acidic soil. Mountain laurel will grow in USDA Zones 5 to 9 in deep shade to full sun, but it does best in moderate to partial shade. In deep shade it won’t produce as many flowers and can become spindly. Too-bright sun can cause scorching of the leaves.

If you have typical Brooklyn clay soil in your garden, you’ll want to create a nurturing environment for mountain laurel by improving drainage and nutrient content with organic matter such as compost. This shrub needs its shallow roots to stay cool, so mulch and keep your plant well-watered, especially during very hot, dry weather. An organic fertilizer like Holly-Tone, which is formulated for acid-loving plants, can be applied in the spring to enhance flower production.


An individual mountain laurel shrub can produce thousands of seeds annually. It’s a good idea to pinch off spent flowers so the plant can put its energy into next year’s blooms instead of reproduction. Deadheading also helps to prevent legginess. Mountain laurel is slow growing, and at maturity, it averages 6 to 15 feet in height and width; dwarf cultivars top out at 3 to 4 feet.

Although mountain laurel in the wild has been known to reach heights of 20 to 40 feet, there’s usually little need for pruning. If your plant is growing too tall for your garden, it will survive hard pruning—even to a few inches above the ground—in the late winter or early spring. Given proper growing conditions, mountain laurel requires little maintenance beyond regular watering, but it can still sometimes fall victim to common garden ills such as blights, borers, scale, white fly, and lace bugs.

A word of caution, especially if your garden is visited by children or pets. All parts of Kalmia latifolia are poisonous if ingested and can cause severe digestive upset and other alarming, though usually nonfatal, symptoms such as weakness and paralysis. Not all animals are affected—deer, unfortunately, are apparently immune to any ill effects and can be vigorous consumers of mountain laurel foliage.

Where to Find Mountain Laurel

Mountain laurel was first recorded growing in the wild in 1624 and can be found on rocky ridges and mountainous forest areas as far south as the Florida Panhandle, as far north as southern Quebec, and as far west as Indiana and Louisiana. In spring it can be seen blooming abundantly along the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina and, closer to New York City, in the forests of upstate New York, notably near Lake Minnewaska, in Ulster County. It is the state flower of both Connecticut and Pennsylvania.

Mountain laurel is also part of the amazing flower display that takes place at Brooklyn Botanic Garden every spring and can be found in the Discovery Garden, Japanese Hill-and-Pond Garden, and Native Flora Garden.

Retail Nurseries

Rarefind Nursery
957 Patterson Road
Jackson, New Jersey 08527

Broken Arrow Nursery
13 Broken Arrow Road
Hamden, Connecticut 06518

Wayside Gardens
One Garden Lane
Hodges, South Carolina 29653

White Flower Farm
PO Box 50, Route 63
Litchfield, Connecticut 06759

Wholesale Nurseries

Pleasant Run Nursery
93 Ellisdale Road
PO Box 247
Allentown, New Jersey 08501

Bissett Nursery
323 Long Island Avenue
Holtsville, New York 11742

Wholesale and Retail

Barton Nurseries
Main Office
949 New Durham Road
Edison, New Jersey 08817

Jeanne Rostaing contributed to BBG’s Japanese-Style Gardens handbook and writes frequently for Gardenista.

Description This evergreen shrub grows slowly, in time becoming treelike with multiple trunks. A typical mature size is 15 feet high and 10 feet wide. Glossy dark leaves up to 5 inches long are divided into seven to nine 1-inch rounded leaflets. Large clusters of showy purple flowers hang heavy on the plant in March and April, filling the air with the fragrance of grape soda. A fine silvery fuzz covers the woody, swollen seed pods, which are 4 inches long and ¾ inch thick. The deep orange seeds inside are poisonous, although it is unlikely that the hard pods could be penetrated.

While the red bean inside is known to be poisonous, the shell is so hard that if swallowed, it would likely pass through with no harm.

Native Distribution Texas Mountain Laurel occurs in south-central and western Texas, New Mexico, and southward in Mexico to San Luis Potosí. It is typically found on slopes, between 1,000 and 5,000 feet in elevation.

Culture Texas Mountain Laurel’s normally slow growth rate can be increased by thorough soaking several times a month in summer. However, if you’re the patient sort, irrigation can be discontinued after the first or second year of establishment. Texas Mountain Laurel is hardy to near 10 degrees Fahrenheit. It grows well in alkaline soil with good drainage. Choose a site in full sun. Larvae of Pyralid Moth can infest the plant, feeding on young growth and the immature seed pods. Bacillus thuringiensis, a biological control commonly used by vegetable gardeners, has proven effective on the caterpillars.

Texas Mountain Laurel can be grown in its natural shrubby form or can be trained into a small tree by removing the lower branches.

Texas Mountain Laurel’s naturally shrubby form can be trained into a tree by removing the lower branches. Clip the seedpods off before they mature if you have children or pets who might try to eat the poisonous seeds.

Landscape Use Texas Mountain Laurel can be utilized as a small tree for tight spaces such as entry courtyards. The flowers are a very attractive feature, best appreciated at close range, where the fragrance is also most noticeable. Light-colored plants paired with Texas Mountain Laurel will accentuate its rich, deep green foliage. A magnificent informal hedge could be created by planting a row of Texas Mountain Laurel and letting the shrubs develop without shearing. The dense evergreen foliage could also be used to screen an unattractive view.

Did you know that up to 70 percent of water use is outdoors? That’s why we love desert plants and feature them each month. You can learn more about Texas Mountain Laurel and other plants on our Arizona Low-Water-Use Plants page. Visit our page on Choosing and Planting Low Water-Use Plants for tips on plant selection and how to plant properly. Also, be sure to read through all of our featured Plant of the Month blogs!

From time to time, Water – Use It Wisely features guest bloggers who write about topics related to water and water conservation. Judy Mielke is a horticulturist, Landscape Architect and the author of one of Water – Use It Wisely’s favorite books. You can find plant descriptions like this and many more in her book Native Plants for Southwestern Landscapes.

Plant of the Week

David Rodriguez

March is upon us and so is spring. Questions about the purple-blue blooms hanging in clusters and having the wonderful scent of grape chewing gum have begun! People are once again enjoying the large evergreen shrub that grows all over South/Central Texas and is referred to as the Texas Mountain (Mt) Laurel. The scientific name of the Texas Mt. Laurel is Sophora secundiflora. The genus name, Sophora, is from the Arabic name, Sophero, and the species name, secundiflora, refers to the one-sided inflorescence. Other vernacular names are the Mescal Bean, Frigolito, Frijollito, Frijolillo, Coral Bean, Big-Drunk Bean, and Colorin. The Mt. Laurel is practically indestructible as a landscape plant. It will survive in our poor alkaline soils. The plant is native to the limestone soils in central, southern, and western Texas, New Mexico, and northern Mexico. It is not the same Mt. Laurel found in the Eastern United States-that species will not survive in our area of Texas and our Texas Mt. Laurel does poorly in those “foreign” areas.

Nothing seems to bother the hardy, drought-tolerant, grow-in-a-stone Mt. Laurel. Hard freezes (below 20 degrees F.) eliminate blooms but won’t kill the plants. These natives evergreen shrub seem resistant to the dreaded cotton root rot fungus which is deadly to 90 % of all other Texas landscape plants. No foliage disease bothers the glossy, evergreen leaves. Every now and then foliage worms may devour some leaves, but the plant comes right back, which can be treated with Bt worm killer. Because the Mt. Laurel is an evergreen shrub (or tree) which can be from 8 to 12 feet in height or as high as 30 feet, this may be the ideal privacy plant for this area of Texas. What other evergreen is so durable and adapted – None! Plus this native plant blooms in the spring!

These beautiful plants are the answer to many of this area’s most serious plant problems. In the past, this outstanding landscape plant was only available as balled-and-burlapped (B-and-B) plants in the nurseries. Large B-and-B trees and shrubs dug from the wild are very expensive because of the tremendous amount of labor involved: in digging the plant, in burlapping it, and in hauling it away. The newly dug B-and-B Mt. Laurel must then be cured (let it stand in a location to see if the plant decides to live or die) for 3 months until sprouting occurs.

As many as 50 % of all the Mt. Laurels dug out do not survive this process. It is no wonder that your cost for a four to eight foot, multi-trunk Mt. Laurel may be over $300! Because of some innovative work in propagating native plants of Texas by Lone Star Growers (now Color Spot) in San Antonio, Mt. Laurels are now available as container-grown plants and are very affordable. For years these plants were described as “slow growing” and impossible to grow economically in containers. Modern technology and persistence have paid off. Large containerized plants are currently available in local nurseries. Plants, three to four feet tall, in five-gallon containers cost less than $25 each. Smaller plants, one to two feet tall, in one-gallon containers cost less than $7. As the plants begin to flower and the demand for this beautiful well-adapted plant increases, some nurseries actually sell the small plants for less than $3 and the larger plants for less than $17.

With the availability of inexpensive containerized Mt. Laurels, you can use these evergreens, blooming plants for creating a privacy hedge or shrub mass. Every good landscape in this area should now contain several Mt. Laurels. To plant the containerized Mt. Laurels, simply dig the hole as wide, but no deeper than the container. Use the soil pulled out of the hole to fill around the plant or as your back-fill soil. Make a circular dam around the hole (this makes watering easier). Water in thoroughly after transplanting to settle the soil around the root system.

So there you have the story of a native Texas plant with the inappropriate name of Mountain Laurel making it big in landscapes. Enjoy the fragrance and enjoy the beauty of a Texas Mountain Laurel in your landscape. And DON’T be trying to get the recipe perfected-this plant is for beautifying the landscape-not sending you into a drugged state of euphoria!

David Rodriguez is County Extension Agent-Horticulture, Bexar County. For more information, call the Master Gardener ‘Hotline’ at (210) 467-6575 or visit our County Extension website at https://bexar-tx.tamu.edu, click under Horticulture and Gardening.

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