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

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

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Questions for the Week

by Jerry Parsons, Ph.D.
Horticulture Specialist, Texas Agricultural Extension Service in San Antonio

When plants start growing, pests start "pesting". I have at times discussed some of the easier-to-control pests such as spider mites, loopers, worms, aphids and squash bugs. However, these pests are insignificant when confronted with the truly destructive garden beast-of-eat known as deer.

How much can a cute little Bambi-type deer eat? Too much! To calculate how much a deer can eat, use the energy content of an average apple tree twig. Animals get energy from the food they eat, and all animals need energy to perform such simple life-functions as walking, running, or even breathing.

For example, a doe that weights about 130 pounds in winter requires 2500 calories per day. To meet its energy needs, the doe must eat at least 2800 twigs a day. Each twig is about 4 inches long and weighs about half a gram (dry weight).

If a young tree has 20 twigs on it, one animal can wipe out 140 trees a day. A group of deer can mean the loss of 2800 trees. If these animals eat the twigs for 30 days, the number of trees that could be affected would 84,000.

How can you deter these ravaging beasts? A tall, expensive fence has been the answer for most ranchers in Texas. If you find a deer that can jump a ten?foot wire barrier, you can enter it in the next Olympics. However, such a barrier is expensive. An inexpensive, movable fence is described at this website:

You may want to try repellents. High cost, limitations on use, and varying effectiveness make most repellents impractical. The effectiveness of repellents will depend on several factors. Rainfall will dissipate some repellents, so reapplication will be necessary after a rain. But some repellents do not weather well even in the absence of rainfall. A deer's hunger and the availability of other, more palatable food will have a great effect on success. In times of food stress, deer are likely to ignore either taste or scent repellents. A pepper-based repellent is described in the website address above.

Much has been written and said about what the serious gardener can do to lessen the impact of deer in the landscape. This usually includes a list of plants that deer are not supposed to like --- such as the one previously used by the Texas Extension Service at:

Some folks enduring huge populations of deer have found these lists and proclamations to be of little value to the gardener who is trying to put some variety into a landscape and do his share to improve the beauty of his surroundings. At this website:

Forrest Appleton has listed plants that, through trial and error, he has found to be the least bothered by deer.

As if eating plants and shrubs was not bad enough, those silly deer also kill just about as many plants with their inappropriate "stomping" and rubbing. The physical damage caused by deer by means other that grazing is something that is seldom addressed by those who would have us believe that the deer are a definite plus in our communities. No small tree or shrub is safe from the buck that is rubbing the velvet from his antlers or marking his area. They not only cause breakage, but they will rub the bark completely off a plant, girdling it and causing its eventual death. The only effective protection is to place an unsightly cage of fencing or concrete reinforcing mesh around the plant. If you install small plants, this means a lengthy period of eyesores in the landscape.

Realizing that few plants have the ability to resist munching by hungry deer, and fewer yet have the ability to thrive in shady locations, you can imagine how VERY FEW plants can be described as:

Semi-Shade Tolerant Plants-Of-Color Which Deer
Do Not Prefer to Eat But Can Damage
With the Rubbing of Antlers and the
Stomping of Hoofs
(Translation: These plants do well in semi-shade and deer
normally won't eat, but can damage with antlers and hoofs)

PS: The creators of this list also wish to emphasize that the more sun these plants receive, the more flowers will be produced and the less "spindly" the plants will grow.

BRUGMANSIA syn. Datura
(See Photos at:

Desperate times and seemingly impossible situations call for drastic solutions. Gardeners in many parts of South Texas are "desperate" for plants which will grow and hopefully bloom in the shade. Plus, they want plants which the deer won't eat.

Deer won't each plants which are distasteful to them. Most toxic plants are distasteful. Therefore, gardeners should select plants that are labeled "poisonous". The term "poisonous" means that if enough (usually larger quantities than can be stomached or consumed because of distasteful attributes) of the plant and/or plant parts are eaten, the animal will become ill and possibly die.

As a rule, animals and children are usually repelled by the nasty-tasting "poisonous" plant after the first bite. Some of the plants with this "built-in" protection from animals are lantana and oleander. Another plant which uses this defense mechanism and is on the verge of becoming a Texas favorite has an angelic name-- Angel Trumpet. The Angel Trumpet is in the Brugmansia genus. Angel Trumpet is a Datura-type plant but with the added advantage of not producing the poisonous seed common with other Datura. However, all of the Angel Trumpet-foliage and bloom are poisonous if enough is ingested. But, the taste is repulsive to deer, will grow and bloom in semi-shaded areas, and emits a wonderful, Angelic scent at sundown and into the evening hours while you are enjoying the cooling nighttime temperatures. It is a "dream-come-true" plant for Texas. It gets its name from the large, long, trumpet?shaped flowers that are abundant and fragrant.

While Brugmansias are still often found under the name Datura, the true Datura are short-lived, herbaceous plants with smaller, more upright flowers and capsular fruits that are usually prickly and contain very poisonous seed. The Angel's Trumpet is root-hardy (freeze to the ground most years but sprout again from the roots in the spring) in most areas of Texas, except in extreme north Texas. There are currently five or more Brugmansia species, most originating in the Andes of northern South America. They are evergreen, or semi- evergreen, and their leaves are large and soft, rather like tobacco leaves but smaller. All parts of the plant are narcotic and poisonous. Remember, it is the dose that makes the poison! Some plants considered "poisonous" are narcotic or hallucinogenic if used in the correct "dosage". For example, Mountain Laurel berries are deadly if chewed, but were used to make a mescal?like drink by Indians who knew the safe "recipe-for-happiness".

The plants prefer a warm to hot climate and a light, fertile, wel-?drained soil. They are best grown as small trees. They can be shaped when young to obtain a single trunk or can be kept trimmed as dense, rounded shrubs. Keep well watered during the growing season.

Whitefly and red spider mite populations should be controlled as needed.

The 'Charles Grimaldi' Angel Trumpet is named for a California landscape designer. This 6-ft. tall hybrid cultivar ('Dr. Seuss' X 'Frosty Pink') has very large, pendulous, fragrant, pinkish yellow to salmon pink flowers, blooming mainly from autumn to spring. It has very large leaves and, with age, will form quite a thicket of stems.

Ipomoea fistulosa Mart. ex Choisy

Find photos of the Bush Morning Glory at this website:

This interesting plant is in the sweet potato family (Ipomoea) and has a shrub-like growth habit. The scientific name is Ipomoea fistulosa. It grows in very dry places and can be considered a xeriscape plant. The bush morning glory is the most prolific bloomers of any of the summer perennials.

The plant is covered with medium-size, light pink (there is a white form available) blooms all summer. Blooms last only one day but clusters of blooms are formed in the axil of every leaf. Plants can get 6-8 feet tall with multiple trunks. When hard frosts kill plants, the tops should be removed. In South central Texas, plants will sprout again from the hardy root system the following May. Once established, the bush morning glory is a tough plant, meaning it is both drought-tolerant and heat-tolerant. It blooms best in direct sun and will not bloom as well if it gets less than 8-10 hours of direct sun. Plants can be cut back monthly to encourage branching and increase the blooming surface. Cutting back in July will reduce plant height and encourage a spectacular fall bloom.

In India, writings describe: "It is not eaten by livestock (ducks, goats, cattle, buffalo, elephants, etc.) and is easily propagated by stem cuttings and withstands periods of flooding and desiccation. It makes an ideal living fence and is easier to manage than the common alternatives: upright cacti succulent Euphorbias or thorny species of Acacia and Prosopis. Under dry conditions it does not seem capable of tolerating much competition but in water or mud it is highly competitive. Under wet conditions the stems become inflated and may be as thick as a human arm. These inflated stems are hard and not spongy as one might expect. Also they are capable of rooting. In regions that are regularly flooded Ipomoea fistulosa is often dominant and forms stands of several hectares."

In other words, this plant is tough and beautiful in water and in drought and the deer don't prefer it!!

More Shade Tolerant, Deer-Resistant Plants

(Commelina spp.)

(Michaelmas Daisy)(Aster spp.)

(Mirabilis jalapa)

See photos at:

The attributes of an old-fashioned plant named Four o'clock have become more important because of the changing environmental adversities that have been experienced by the Texas gardening public. Texas gardeners desperately need a plant which:

(1) will flourish in periods of severe drought and water restrictions. These are listed among the most drough-tolerant : Cockscomb, Coreopsis, Cosmos, Four o'clock, Moss Rose, Petunia, Purslane, Verbena, Zinnia

(2) will bloom in less than full sunlight situations. These are listed among the most shade or semi-shade tolerant: Begonia, Bellflower, Coleus, Dwarf Lobelia, Four O'Clock, Flowering Tobacco, Impatiens

(3) is deer and rabbit tolerant in that it is not a preferred plant for deer and can recoup rapidly after being damaged by deer, dogs, and other varmints

(4) is fragrant,

(5) is a long-lived tuberous perennial and reseeding annual,

(6) is one of a very few hummingbird and butterfly plants for shady growing conditions.

The skeptics may wonder why this wonderful plant has not been promoted before now. The simple answer is that this plant is so adapted and tenacious, it is sometimes considered invasive. This may be a case of one person's trash is another person's treasure, OR familiarity breeds discontent. Maybe it is because the flowers do not stay open all day. The flowers are not responding to an internal clock but to temperature. The flowers open in the afternoon, about 4 o'clock. Usually, the flowers close the following morning, but if the day is cool, they will stay open until the new flowers open. In the Hellish summer temperatures of Texas, folks can only enjoy their flowers in the late evening anyway, and four o'clock provide beauty and fragrance during that cooler time of the day.

Flowers are trumpet-shaped, with the throat as much as 2 inches long and 1 inch wide with five lobes. Flowers are produced in shades of white, yellow and about every shade of pink imaginable. The striped flowers appear to be infected with a virus disease that creates the interesting patterns. The flower is an enigma in that it completely lacks petals. The showy portion of the flower is actually an outgrowth of the sepal, which in most plants is green and leaf-like.

The small, leafy structure from which the flower emerges is made of bracts formed from modified leaves. The absence of petals is rare in the plant kingdom. Each flower that is pollinated produces a pea-size black "seed." The seed is not really a seed but a fruit. A true seed is produced inside something --for example, inside a pea pod or the capsule of a petunia. In this case, each flower produces one seed that is enclosed inside the ovary. So, in reality the "seed" is a "fruit."

Former Bexar County Extension Horticulturist Greg Grant writes in his Arcadia Archives section of that he dug the root of a Four O'Clock that he found in a little abandoned yard that was dark hot pink in color and grew it for a year before he realized it had NO fragrance. Greg's granny's plant had blooms that had a fragrance as sweet as sugar! Greg has provided us with a fragrant yellow-blooming plant from his Granny Ruth.

The Four o'clock name is a misnomer. The name Mirabilis was given by Linnaeus in the middle 18th Century and shortened from the Latin word "Admirabilis" which gives us "admirable" and is a reference to the showy flowers. The name "jalapa" is due to botanical confusion. The fleshy roots of this plant were thought to be the source of "jalapa," a drug that was used in Central and South America as a laxative. In reality, the jalapa was from a member of the morning glory family. The common name -- Four O'clock --is one of our oldest garden flowers and was originally shipped back to Europe by the Spanish conquistadors. The flowers are fragrant and produce a subtle and delightful fragrance during the early evening hours when the wind is not blowing. Hummingbirds and lunar moths both seem to like to visit the flower for the abundance of nectar.

The Four o'clock -- also know as Belle De Nuit Blanche, Belle De Nuit Rose, Belle De Nuit, Buenas Tardes, Dondiego De Noche, Gecesefase, Geje Safa, Gulabbas, Heft Reng, Jalap, Lala A'Bbas, Maravilla, Noche Buena, Tzu Mo Li, Bunga pukul empat, Kederat, Kembang pagi sore, Kembang pukul, Nodja, Segerat, Ubat jerawat --also has the medicinal uses and properties of antifungal, antimicrobial, antiviral, antibacterial, diuretic, alterative, carminative, cathartic, hydragogue, purgative, stomachic, tonic and vermifuge.

The phytochemicals it contains are:


Its ethno-botanical uses are: abscess, alterative, boil, bruise, carbuncle, carminative, cathartic, colic, cosmetic, diabetes, diuretic, dropsy, gonorrhea, hepatitis, herpes, hydragogue, hypochondria, itch, liver, pimple, purgative, rash, repellant (insect), sore, splenitis, stomachic, strain, tonic, tumor, urticaria, uterosis, vermifuge and wound.

Gold Star Esperanza
(Tecoma stans)
See photos at:

Tecoma stans 'Gold Star' Esperanza (Yellow Bells, Yellow Alder) is a heat and sun loving tropical with golden-yellow bell shaped flowers from late spring till frost. Zone 9.

Exposure: Full sun is best but will tolerate partial shade
Size: Three to four feet as an annual.
Blooms: Lightly fragrant, golden yellow, spring till frost.
Uses: Container, specimen, bedding, xeriscape, etc.
Notes: Remove seedpods to promote faster re-bloom. Texas native.

'Gold Star' Esperanza is a selection Greg Grant made from a private garden in San Antonio. It was introduced by Lone Star Growers. 'Gold Star' was selected because it was the earliest blooming Tecoma stans that I had in trial. Previously, Esperanza was difficult to sell to gardening consumers because it didn't produce blooms in the container until late in the season. 'Gold Star' actually produced them as a liner.

Tecoma stans requires bright light and warm temperatures. This particular selection is intermediate between the West Texas Tecoma stans angustata and the tropical Tecoma stans stans. Flower and leaf size is intermediate between the two.

Although grown as a shrub and a perennial in San Antonio, South Texas, and Mexico, Esperanza works best in the nursery trade as a tropical container plant, similar to Hibiscus, Bougainvillea, and Mandevilla. It is generally sold in one gallon or three gallon containers.

Esperanza has relatively few pests. In the greenhouse, it can be attacked by spider mites and aphids. Outdoors it is generally pest free. To keep the plants tidy and continuously blooming in the landscape, it is recommended that the clusters of seed pods ("green beans") be cut off.

(Justicia carnea)

(Stachys byzantina)

(Poliomentha longiflora)

Periwinkle Vinca
(Madagascar Periwinkle)
Catharanthus roseus
Excellent heat tolerant selection BUT should NEVER be transplanted where sprinkler irrigation is used, AND should NEVER be transplanted before June 1 (July 1 is safer!) Mulching is HIGHLY recommended!

(Plumbago auriculata)

(Rosearinis officinalis)

(Salvia coccinea)

(Justicia brandegeana)

(Malvaviscus arboreus)

See photos at:

Turk's Cap (Malvaviscus arboreus) is a shade-tolerant, deer-resistant Texas native that has blooms which hummingbirds love. It grows in sun or part sun to heights of 4 to 5 feet, forming a shrub-like perennial plant. It flowers from late spring through fall, with bright red petals rolled loosely around the flowers' reproductive parts. It is a relative of the hibiscus, and its variegated green?and?white foliage make a perfect compliment to colorful flowers. It is a showy stand?out in shady areas where the green color is lost.

Hummingbirds love it and enjoy feeding in the shade. Often, it dies to the ground in winter, then comes back in the spring. It is a root-hardy perennial that is an old-time favorite of early Texas gardeners since it is deer resistant as well. It is drought tolerant and some have indicated that plants can be weeded with a glyphosate herbicide such as Roundup, Kleanup or Finale without significant, if any, damage to the foliage of the Turk's Cap. (However, try at your own risk!!)


(Bignonia capreolata)

(Gelsemium Sempervirens)