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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

The first column for May, 2002, listed the few plants which are deer resistant, with the added benefit of being shade tolerant.

Here is a list of plants which deer DO eat, but also do well in semi-shade.
(This list is for those gardeners who live where they do not have to contend with deer foraging or damage.)

The authors of this list wish to emphasize that the more sun received, the more flowers produced by flowering plants and the less spindly the plants will grow.

(Begonia semperflorens)

Tropical Giant Spider Lily
(Hymenocallis caribbea 'Tropical Giant')

(Leuroium aestivum)

(Lycoris raliata)

Oxblood Lily
(Rodophiala bifida)

White Rain Lily
(Zephurantles candidel)

(Caladium x hortulanum)

See information on caladiums at this website:

(Impatiens walleriana)

Impatiens are without a doubt the most spectacular shade-blooming annuals available. Impatiens is the formal name for the popular, and pretty, old-fashioned flower often called busy Lizzie and sultana. Few other bedding plants bloom with so little sunlight and no other bedding plant offers the glowing, luminescent colors of impatiens.

Their radiant colors range from cool white to lavender-rose, intense pink to brilliant orange reds. The most common series available are the Super Elfin (violet, orange, red, rose, salmon and white) and Soda Pop. The New Guinea hybrid impatiens with attractively variegated leaves are now "the rage" and very attractive in containers at nurseries and garden centers. However, New Guinea impatiens DO NOT perform well in this area and SHOULD BE AVOIDED.

Impatiens plants grow into colorful mounds that bloom all summer. They come in several heights, from eight inches up to 15 or 20 inches tall. The shorter ones make fine edging, foreground, hanging basket, and small container plants.

It's best to wait until the weather is settled on the warm side of spring before planting impatiens - obviously, the time has come. They are tender plants that grow fast in warm and hot weather.

Impatiens are adaptable plants, not caring unduly about the type of soil you plant them in, provided it's well drained. To give them the best start in your garden, dig the ground to a depth of 6-8 inches. Work in plenty of organic matter such as peat moss, leaf mold or compost; add perlite or bark to improve drainage where the soil is heavy and compacted.

Under established trees, you may need to replace the exhausted and root-laden soil with a fresh supply from elsewhere in the garden, or with a container soil mix. For hanging baskets, window boxes and planters, use equal volumes of potting soil, peat moss, and coarse sand or perlite; or buy a ready-prepared mixture for your containers.

As you dig and mix the soil, add some slow-release fertilizer --2 pounds per 100 square feet--to boost fertility levels for your bedding plants. Feed New Guinea hybrid impatiens every month to maintain their vibrant colors. As growth slows in late summer, all impatiens will benefit from an extra shot of fertilizer.

Transplant impatiens in the late afternoon or evening, or on a cloudy day so the new plants aren't immediately subjected to full noonday heat. Carefully separate the plants from one another and from their containers. The stems are brittle so handle them gently. Space impatiens 12 inches apart. Plants grown in peat pots can be set in the prepared ground, pot and all, but be sure to cover the whole peat pot with soil, folding under the top rim that rises above soil level. If the top of the pot rises above the soil, the pot will act as a wick--drawing moisture away from the plants' roots.

Water well to settle the transplanted roots into their new home. Check every few days and water again when soil starts to dry out.

Your colorful impatiens will blossom and flourish all summer long in shade, and even in moderate sunshine when you provide enough water. At the end of summer, you can dig up your favorite ones and replant in pots. Or, take cuttings for indoor decoration all winter long.

(Solenostemon scutellarioides)

People can't survive the heat of summer without it and most plants can't produce in it. Shade is a blessing to folks and a curse to most plants. Fruiting and flowering plants require a minimum of 6 to 8 hours of direct sunlight to be productive. If less light is received, these plants will live but production of blooms and fruit will be diminished or eliminated. Even so-called shade-blooming flowers such as impatiens and begonias will not bloom in dense shade.

The solution to successful growing in shady areas is to use plants that are not grown to produce fruit or flowers. Vegetable gardeners use shady areas for growing beets, broccoli, cabbage, carrots, greens, lettuce, radishes, spinach and turnips. Landscapers use St. Augustine grass, which slowly declines in shaded areas, and ground covers such as Asiatic Jasmine, English Ivy, Liriope or Monkey Grass. For color in shady areas, the two best colored-foliage plants are caladiums and coleus.

Unfortunately the sunlight conditions of most planting sites are seldom situations of all or nothing. Sometimes planting sites receive the ideal condition of morning sun with afternoon shade. Some sites receive midday sun or, the worst possible scenario, morning shade with hot, scorching afternoon sun. Most ornamental plants that bloom or provide colorful foliage in shaded areas are damaged by exposure to the searing afternoon Texas sun.

Now people have the answer to those difficult morning-shade and afternoon-sun planting areas. The sun?tolerant coleus are here! Sun-tolerant coleus are being sold this year as SUN-OR-SHADE (S-O-S) coleus which can actually be planted in full sun, complete shade or anything in between, yet provide the colorful display for which coleus are so well known. These coleus are collectively termed sun coleus because of their unusual ability to withstand the intense heat and sunlight of Texas' summers.

The SUN-OR-SHADE coleus, listed in order of sun tolerance, are:
Burgundy Sun -a deep, burgundy-colored, large oval to heart-shaped leaf on a vigorous plant (2 ½ feet). A severe cutback in July, even in a full, hot sun condition, will not kill the plant.

Eclipse - a burgundy-colored, large oval to heart-shaped leaf edged with brilliant golden margins provides an eclipsing appearance for this vigorous plant which can be 24 inches tall depending on growing conditions.

Lemon Lace - a ruffled, lanceolate-shaped leaf splashed with green and yellow on a vigorous plant to 2 feet.

New Orleans - a ruffled, lanceolate-shaped leaf which is red, splashed with purple, highlighted with golden edges.

Plum Parfait - a ruffled, lanceolate-shaped leaf which is purple splashed with pink edges on a vigorous plant to 2 feet.

All coleus colors described can be altered slightly by the planting site and/or the exposure received. All coleus plants should be transplanted 12 to 18 inches apart.

The sun?tolerant coleus require some special growing amendments to insure best results. The coleus is a fleshy-type plant that requires a well drained growing area (or it will rot), consistent moisture levels (or it will dry, wilt and die) and adequate amounts of fertility throughout the growing season (or it will not be showy). Amend growing sites with generous amounts of organic material (peat moss, compost, manure). Apply 2 pounds of a slow-release fertilizer formulation per 100 square feet of area before planting. Installation of a drip irrigation system to provide adequate moisture will enhance the growth of coleus. After plants are established, and during periods of limited amounts of rainfall, operate the drip system for 3 hours a day every 2nd day. An additional 2 pounds of a slow-release fertilizer formulation per 100 square feet of planting bed should be added to the planting site in July. This side-dress fertilizer application can be made at the time of cut-back for the more vigorous coleus varieties if desired.

These sun-tolerant coleus varieties are excellent candidates for use in patio containers or hanging baskets which may be exposed to varying degrees of shade and sun. Make sure all containers drain well, and a well-draining potting mix is used. To insure adequate growth, include the proper amount (according to label instructions) of Osmocote Slow?Release fertilizer pellets and water with a water soluble fertilizer every 2 weeks.

The sun-tolerant coleus will solve many of the growing problems that people have experienced with shady areas. The sun-tolerant coleus is a beautiful solution to the shady conditions which, in Texas, the need for trees has inflicted.

(Aquilegia chrysantha 'Texas Gold' and 'Blazing Star')

See write-up at this PLANTanswers website:

(Hemerocallis spp.)

For information, see this website:

(Odontonema strictum)

See write-up and photos at:

The Firespike is a plant which solves the problem of having a shady area in which very few plants will grow, much less bloom. Firespike will not only grow in the shade but plants will provide a magnificent display of practically glow?in?the?dark red bloom spikes that attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

Firespike (Odontonema strictum) is a shade loving, tender perennial with deep green, glossy leaves. It will be grown for its beautiful foliage in the spring and summer. Firespike is a substitute for the popular hosta that is popular throughout the U. S. but is devoured by snails in this area of Texas. This beautiful foliage provides a startling contrast to its fire?red late season blooms. Hummingbirds and butterflies cherish its brilliant spikes of deep red flowers in late summer and fall.

Firespike can be grown as a tropical container plant, an annual which grows about 2 feet the first season. If it survives the winter as a protected perennial, it grows more than 4 feet tall. This plant can be grown in heavy clay soils and wet conditions. Some recommend that these plants be dug and potted in late fall and used as blooming house plants throughout the winter. It is one our most versatile plants, and definitely the best blooming plants for shade conditions.

(Gerbera jamesonii)

GINGERS (Butterfly, Spiral, Pinecone, etc.)
(Hedychium spp., Costus, Alpinia)

(Cuphea hyssopifolia)

(Pentas lanceolata)

(Strobilantus dyerianus)

See photo at this website:

Persian Shield is a shade tolerant, purple?leafed ornamental native to
Burma. Attractive colorful foliage from spring to frost. Zone 10.

(Barleria cristata)

See photo at:

The name commemorates the French botanist, Jacques Barrelier, who died in 1673. The inappropriately-named Phillipine violet is a native of India. The flowers are pale violet-blue. This plant was discovered growing at the zoo and was introduced into the area by Paul Cox of the San Antonio Botanical Garden. It will grow in full to partial shade.

(Setcreasea purpurea)

Purple Heart is in the Genus Setcreasea which has nine species of the spiderwort family Commelinaceae. Purple Heart was discovered in a window box at the Tampico, Mexico, airport and named in the early 1950's by a Puerto Rican nurseryman. In 1955 the newcomer was described and given the scientific name Setcreasea purpurea but later redefined as a variety of Setcreasea pallida.

Setcreaseas are more or less succulent, trailing, clambering or erect with thick roots and fleshy stems. The lavender to purple flowers are in terminal clusters, each partly enveloped by a pair of leaf bracts.

Purple Heart is native to the dry and semi-desert parts of Mexico. It is trailer or creeper with the young parts of its shoots erect. In warmer parts of Texas, the plants never freeze so the planting can become overgrown and "snaky"; in colder climates the plant is root hardy -- the top freezes and is removed, but it re-sprouts from the roots. It has attractive purple shoots during the hottest, driest part of the summer. Gardeners who live in warmer climates can enjoy the same beauty from this plant by mowing it off or raking the tops away every winter.

It is a beautiful purple plant which lives in shade or sun, with little or no water. It can be weeded (if bermuda grass dares invade its territory) with a one-half strength glyphosate (Roundup, Kleanup) spray; and has a pretty little bloom at the tip of each stem. Many have called this plant Purple Jew because it is in the Wandering Jew family but we prefer the name Purple Heart.

(Ruellia brittoniana 'Katie' and 'Bonita')

This is a small heat-loving perennial with a profusion of lavender-purple flowers throughout the growing season.

Exposure: Full sun to part shade.
Size: 1 foot x 1 foot.
Bloom time: Spring till frost.
Care: Low maintenance. Drought tolerant. Pest resistant. Shear after first frost.


Asian Jasmine
(Trachelospermum asiaticum)

English Ivy
(Hedera helix)

(Liriope muscari)

Monkey Grass/Mondo Grass
(Ophiopogon japonicus)

Holly Fern
(Cyrtomium falcatum)

Wood Fern/River Fern
(Dryopteris spp.)

See information at this PLANTanswers website: