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Yellow Bells for 2000

Tecoma stans 'Gold Star', (Esperanza, Yellow Bells, Yellow Alder)

Heat and sun loving tropical with golden-yellow bell shaped flowers from late spring till frost.

Zone 9.
Exposure: Full sun
Size: Three to four feet as an annual.
Blooms: Lightly fragrant, golden yellow, spring till frost.
Uses: Container, specimen, bedding, xeriscape, etc.
Notes: Remove seed pods to promote faster rebloom. Texas native. 1999 Texas A&M CEMAP promotion.

If you have a desire to experience hell on earth, take a trip to South Texas during a hot Texas summer. One might be inclined to think that no man nor plant could survive down there. But survive they do. As a matter of fact, some even thrive.

It's a common horticultural misnomer to think that all plants want to grow in the cool damp climates of England. There are, however, a great number of plants that don't grow well under mild conditions. These are the plants Texas gardeners should be growing. Instead of growing plants native to cool, moist temperate zones, we should stick to plants native to Texas,
Mexico, and Tropical America. We all have similar climates, either too hot, too wet, or too dry. Nothing else. When was the last time you stuck your head into the garden and said, "Perfect gardening conditions!"?

Doesn't happen very often, does it?

Within those Texas tough plants, there's an even fiercer group. Believe it or not, there are plants that don't even THINK about performing until they see others cooking. That's right, there are plants that LIKE one hundred degree temperatures. Think of them as popcorn, if you will. If
it's cool they do nothing. But when it gets hot, look out! And guess what? They can't even grow these in Europe and the North. Their loss, our gain!

One of the tops on the heat tolerant Texas performers is a plant known in South Texas and Mexico as "Esperanza". Esperanza is Spanish for "hope". I HOPE you're paying attention.

Esperanza (Tecoma stans) is a member of one of my favorite families, the Bignoniaceae. This family contains other proven Texas performers including Trumpet Creeper, Crossvine, Catalpa, Desert Willow, and Cape Honeysuckle. All of these are known for big showy flowers on rugged plants.

Tecoma stans is native from West Texas down to Mexico and the tropics. The West Texas forms (Tecoma stans angustata) tend to be more cold hardy with smaller flowers and leaves while the tropical forms (Tecoma stans stans) are know for their larger flowers and leaves.

To be quite honest, I have never seen an Esperanza that wasn't pretty, though like most gardeners I tend to prefer those with larger more profuse flowers. This led to a trial, about ten years ago, comparing the showiest Esperanzas I could locate.

'Gold Star' Esperanza is a wondeful selection I made from a private garden in San Antonio while Director of Research and Development at Lone Star Growers (now Color Spot Nursery). 'Gold Star' was selected because it was the earliest blooming Tecoma stans trialed. Previously, Esperanza was difficult to sell as it didn't produce blooms in the container until late
in the season. 'Gold Star' actually produced them as a liner.

This particular selection is intermediate in all characters between the West Texas Tecoma stans angustata and the tropical Tecoma stans stans. Although grown as a shrub and a perennial in San Antonio, South Texas, and Mexico, Esperanza works best in most gardens as a tropical container plant, similar to Hibiscus, Bougainvillea, and Mandevilla. It is generally
sold in one gallon or three gallon containers.

Esperanza is generally pest free in the landscape. To keep the plants tidy and continuously blooming, however, it is best to cut off the clusters of seed pods ("green beans"). Although new plants can be grown from the ripened dried seeds, they won't necessarily be identical to the
original plant. They root easily however with warm conditions under mist.

All selections of Tecoma stans are uniquely adapted to hot sunny Texas summers. 'Gold Star' provides more blooms, more often*something all gardeners hope for. 'Gold Star' Esperanza was selected as a 1999 Texas Superstar by the Texas A&M CEMAP program.

Greg Grant is a lecturer for Stephen F. Austin University in Nacogdoches and co-author of The Southern Heirloom Garden (Taylor Publishing, 1995).


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