Search For The Answer
Click here to access our database of
Plant Answers
Search For The Picture
Click here to access the Google database of plants and insects

Information Index
Alphabetical Listing of Topics, Recommendations and Plants

Milberger's Nursery and Landscaping
3920 North Loop 1604 E.
San Antonio, TX 78247

Open 9 to 6 Mon. through Sat.
and 10 to 5 on Sun.

Three exits east of 281, inside of 1604
Next to the Diamond Shamrock station
Please click map for more detailed map and driving directions.

Drought StrategiesMulchTo Water or Not To Water
Water Saver Rebate
Q&A Weekly Article and Archives



It has been a great March for blooming plants. Did you note which ones did best in your neighborhood?

           After several years of decline (thinning crowns, leaf drop) the standard pittosporums have responded to our mild, wet weather since autumn to thicken up, and to bloom heavily this spring. The blooms have lasted two weeks now and appear to be ready to last another two weeks. The fragrance is sweet and musky like frangipani but more potent. The 16 feet diameter, 8 feet tall specimen that we have in our yard permeates our entire front yard.

            Pittosporum is not recommended as much as it was a few decades ago; the plant was overused. Maybe it is time to reconsider it. Standard size pittosporums can take sun or shade, are deer resistant in my neighborhood, are very drought tolerant and provide dark-green evergreen foliage without disease or insect problems. Standard pittosporums should be considered along with the hollies and nandinas for our basic foundation plantings. The variegated version is showy in some situations, though it is not as tough as the plain green.

            As good as the standard size pittosporum is for San Antonio, the dwarf version has proven not to be suitable. It is very sensitive to cold weather. Even slight freezes after warm temperatures in the winter result in injured stems that die as soon as hot weather arrives.

            Another large shrub that has been particularly showy this spring is the Lady Banks rose. It is a huge (16 feet around) shrub with white or light yellow blooms. I am told that the thorny version is fragrant but so far I have not seen such an example. There are both whites and yellows in my neighborhood but none have thorns or fragrance. In past years the bloom season has been short (three weeks) but it has already been that long this spring without any noticeable decline in color.

            The Lady Banks is normally used as a large weeping specimen plant in full sun, but it can be trained to climb up a mesquite or other deciduous trees where it gets at least six hours of sun. In my neighborhood by the Medical Center we have about 100 homes and are blessed with over two dozen deer (counted that many in one group last weekend). Several large Lady Banks co-exist with the hungry mammals. They eat at low new growth but do not seem to relish the rose. Mike Shoup of The Antique Rose Emporium also confirms that the Lady Banks is not a favorite deer food.

            Iris seem to be deer-proof no matter how many deer share your neighborhood. This has been a spectacular blooming year for the versatile perennial as well. The old-fashioned white and blue cemetery iris have completed their prime bloom period but the fancier bearded iris are just beginning. The colors include blue, yellow, white, violets, red-brown, cremes, oranges and bicolors. Some selections have fragrances. My favorite yellow iris smells like lemon.

            Like pittosporum and Lady Banks rose, the iris bloom period is relatively short, but iris make a great groundcover for the rest of the year. The 14 to 24 inch sword-like blades form a thick, attractive bed.

            Irises can be planted anytime of the year. The nurseries have container-grown plants available now. The normal time to plant the rhizomes is in the fall, but I just planted some a few weeks ago. They are sending up leaves now and will bloom next spring. Plant bearded iris so that the rhizome top is even with the surface of the ground. To bloom well they require full sun but can tolerate any type of soil as long as it dries out between rains. Iris are one of the most drought tolerant plants available.

            ‘Texas Gold’ columbine is another perennial that is blooming now. Recognize it by the yellow shooting star blooms on 18 inch stalks over foliage that resembles maiden hair fern. The “books” say ‘Texas Gold’ columbine is deer-proof but it is not any longer. Deer have learned to browse it to the ground.

            ‘Texas Gold’ columbine is derived from native stock and qualifies as a xeriscape plant despite its delicate appearance. It is one of my favorite plants because of its bloom, and especially its foliage. Columbine makes a very attractive groundcover under deciduous trees and even live oaks with thin crowns. The premium plant is in short supply at nurseries this year, but you can grow your own plants by collecting seeds in April and early May from established beds. Plant them in potting soil in late summer for germination after the cool winter weather. Transplant them early next spring.