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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


Week of April 30, 2001

By Calvin Finch, Conservation Director, San Antonio Water System, and Horticulturist


There are many drought tolerant plants that are also good plants for attracting birds and butterflies.

Some of you listen to my radio show on KLUP on Saturdays at noon and Sundays at 1 p.m. We broadcast from the porch at Milberger’s Nursery and so are blessed with a great view of their bloom display. The hummingbirds are also easy to observe. They like many plants but the Salvias are among their favorites. Salvia coccinea is the favorite right now. It comes in several versions. ‘Lady in Red’ has bright red blooms. There is the bicolor, which has pink and white blooms, and also a white selection. Coccinea does best in morning or full sun. It is a reseeding perennial that blooms throughout the summer with the best flushes in spring and fall. The plants only reach about 16 inches tall.

Pyracantha is also blooming right now. The hummingbirds and butterflies will use the flowers but the pyracantha is most useful for its berries. The mockingbirds, cardinals and others strip the plants in winter after they are softened by cold.

Pyracantha grows very fast to 12 or 14 feet tall and is very showy when full of the orange berries. It is a thorny shrub that also attracts nesting birds when it is allowed to spread. Pyracantha, however, responds very well to pruning and can be trained to an espalier or thin hedge. Plant pyracantha in full sun.

One of the favorite spring fruits is available to birds right now, the mulberry. Mulberry grows to a tree 35 or 40 feet tall in San Antonio soils. It is deciduous and can be a weed tree in some circumstances because of reseeding. Mulberry is also not the greatest drought tree. Dieback is common and it is often short lived.

Mulberry’s claim to fame, however, is its berries. My trees never fully mature a berry. The mockingbirds, cardinals, finches, catbirds and thrashers strip the trees before the berries ripen. Even some of the insect eaters like wrens, vireos, warblers, and kinglets seem to like the mulberry.

Loquats are also loaded with fruit right now. They bloom in early winter so do not bear fruit during cold winters but have a load this year. Loquat fruit is half-dollar size and can be messy on driveways or patios but is eaten at by the birds and especially appreciated by mammals such as opposums, racoons, squirrels and deer.

Loquat is a drought tolerant evergreen tree that reaches 20 feet tall. With its large leathery leaves and open canopy, it has a tropical look. Loquat has excellent shade tolerance or can be grown in full sun.

The bluebonnets and wine cups have declined but the coreopsis are covering many vacant lots in San Antonio. The flat yellow flowers will bloom all summer and are attractive to butterflies. Spread the seed over poor soil in vacant fields to get it started. I say poor soil because the seed needs to reach the soil and does best when it isn’t competing with other plants. Recognize the coreopsis because of the blooms and its thread-like foliage.

Pomegranite has a glow-in-the-dark, red-orange bloom and later forms an unusual fruit, which is popular with craft workers, as well as birds and mammals. The fruit looks like a russeted apple with a crown. Inside are seeds that are surrounded by a jelly-like fruit. Pomegranite has a pleasant tarty flavor and is probably a good diet food. It takes as many calories to uncover and eat it as one receives by eating it. ‘Wonderful’ is the commercial fruit-producing pomegranite but the naturalized version that is common in San Antonio neighborhoods produces a bloom show in April and produces a reasonable amount of fruit if it is grown in full sun.

Pomegranite is a deer-proof shrub in my neighborhood. It grows in sun or shade and makes a thick shrub with dark-green foliage that seems to ignore drought.