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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.

Propagation Problems and Solutions for Texas SuperStar Plants
Jerry M. Parsons, Ph.D.
Professor and Horticulturist for Texas Cooperative Extension -
Texas A&M University System-- San Antonio, Texas 78230
3344 Cherry Ridge Drive, Suite 212

"Texas SuperStar" is a Texas A&M University System trademarked
nomenclature and label which is bestowed on specially selected plants which have attributes that make them Texas' tough and consumer friendly. Skeptics often wonder how certain plants can be chosen as "better" than others. While it is true some people have never met a plant they didn't like, plants which attain SuperStar status must be attractive and useful to the masses rather a special few "collectors". Every effort is made to ensure that SuperStar plants will consistently perform well for Texas consumers regardless of their plant growing expertise. There is no perfect plant so limitations of highlighted plants are explained to avoid discontent by those who overlook the obvious when growing plants. Realizing that some folks "can mess up a ball-bearing" and
no plant is "bullet-proof", everyone is not successful with SuperStar plants.

However, the vast majority of gardeners are successful and make Texas SuperStar plants a permanent part of their landscapes. This explains why the majority of Texas SuperStar plants have been million dollar sellers for wholesale growers. The characteristics which make a plant a "winner" are outlined at:
and images of all selections can be seen at: and

The majority of plant selections which have attained the Texas SuperStar status as listed at: have
originated in San Antonio under the tutelage of horticulture interests in this area. A very important factor which must be considered when selecting plants for SuperStar educational and marketing campaigns is whether sufficient numbers of plants can be produced to meet the increased consumer demand to be generated. Nothing angers a consumer and/or a nurseryman more than not to have the promoted plants available. I will discuss some of the obstacles which were and are overcome in order to proliferate certain Texas SuperStar plants.

The Texas' state flower -- BLUEBONNETS (Lupinus texensis) ---
was the first Texas SuperStar in the fall of 1989. The natural affinity for this beloved state flower made this promotion an overnight success and launched the Texas SuperStar program. Eleven years later in 2000, the 'Texas Maroon' 'Alamo Fire') bluebonnet was the eighteenth SuperStar promotion. The connection to Texas A&M Aggies and winning the EuroFlora Award for the Most Unique Color as 'Alamo Fire' in Europe launched this bluebonnet color as a standard in Texas. Wildseed Farms ( in Fredericksburg is now producing and distributing seed of this Texas SuperStar. The proposed goal of this project which began in 1980 was accomplished in the spring of 2003 when the first design of a Texas State flag was planted using red, white and blue bluebonnets. For details see: Peterson Brothers Nursery in San Antonio and I have spent 20 years developing a process of growing bluebonnet transplants, which are easier to plant than seed, and selecting-increasing interesting color variants as described at: and

The key to rapid and uniform germination of seed for growers producing transplants and farmers planting commercial bluebonnet seed crops is chemical scarification with concentrated sulfuric acid for a minimum of 45 minutes and a maximum of 2 hours. This was proven to be the superior scarification technique in the research paper found at:
It has since been discovered that a seedling drench or a pre-plant furrow application of terrachlor reduces damping-off disease symptoms.

'FIREBUSH' (Hamelia patens) is the root-hardy perennial,
drought-tolerant plant which was the second SuperStar plant promotion in May, 1990. The firebush was the first shrub-small tree plant to be introduced as a Texas' tough perennial for difficult growing conditions. It blooms in small containers as a transplant and is the ultimate hummingbird-butterfly plant for hot, dry weather. It was considered difficult to root before horticulturists discovered the timing and conditions needed to increase the rooting percentages. Growers were not taking cuttings until late in the fall in order to have a spectacular display plant to generate consumer sales. By the time cuttings were taken, the plant was decreasing growth rate because of cooler temperatures and rooting percentages were extremely low. Complete information can be found at:

The fifth Texas SuperStar plant promotion was satsuma mandarin (Citrus unshiu Marc.) trees in the spring of 1993. This offered Texans the most cold-tolerant citrus with the highest quality, seedless fruit. Plants can be grown in a container in northern areas of the state. It is an evergreen and has fragrant flowers in the spring as well as deep orange, delicious fruit in the fall. The main varieties offered in 1993 were 'Kimbrough' and 'Armstrong Early'. In 2002, Dr. Larry Stein and I introduced several new satsuma varieties which ripen earlier and produce higher quality fruit. Hopefully most of these selections will be grown on their own roots to control tree size and avoid rootstock sprouting problems. The new satsuma mandarin orange virus- tested
selections are named 'Miho', 'Seto', 'Okitsu' and 'Mr. Mac' (an 'Owari'
selection) and will be available in several years as soon as sufficient plantnumbers can be grown. The entire satsuma introduction history and cultivar statistics are described at:

The sixth Texas SuperStar released in the spring of 1993 was the 'Texas Gold' columbine. The 'Texas Gold' columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha Gray is one of the first flower of spring, grows best near the trunk of a deciduous tree (for shade in the summer and sun in the winter), and is the only columbine which will live through Texas summers. It is a Texas' native. A combination of two Texas' native columbines named 'Blazing Stars' Columbine (Aquilegia x puryearana 'Bernice Ikins') will soon be available. Before these superior columbines could be economically produced, the seed germination had to be clearly understood. Research enabled growers to market a blooming, gallon-container columbine in less than a year rather than the traditional 16 month growing time. For complete germination procedures, see:

The Belinda's Dream (Rosa x 'Belinda's Dream) became the
twenty-fifth Texas Superstar in the spring of 2002 and the first rose ever selected. It is a combination of the old-fashioned (antique) and hybrid Tea with fragrance and durability. The reason this rose was chosen was because it is extremely easy to root from cuttings and can be successfully grown by large commercial producers using frequent (daily) overhead watering without severe damage from fungus diseases. This means that the rose can be mass propagated without the need of expensive and time-consuming grafting onto a root-stock. To the credit of the rose, the producers were able to grow large quantities of marketable plants before the promotion was scheduled to begin. The merits of the rose sold over 50,000 plants and made it a million dollar wholesale item before the actual promotion began! Because this rose "looks like a rose" and "smells like rose", people did not have to be convinced that it IS a rose. This is not the case for many antique roses.

The twelfth Texas SuperStar promotion and one of the most popular plants ever introduced was 'Blue Princess' verbena (Verbena X hybrida 'Blue Princess'). This promotion was accomplished in the spring of 1998. A made-for-Texas verbena named 'Blue Princess' was brought back from England by Greg Grant. This verbena and its offspring are the only true perennial verbena for Texas. They are more cold-and-heat tolerant and have larger flower heads than any previously available verbena. They are more disease and insect tolerant as well. Blue Princess verbena is the most floriferous and vigorous growing variety in Texas when propagated from virus-free stock. Because the original stock of 'Blue Princess' became contaminated with virus, a seedling selection from 'Blue Princess' named 'Dark Lavender Princess' from BallFlora is now substituted for and sold as 'Blue Princess'. Many seedlings of 'Blue Princess' possess the many strengths and attributes of the parent. In 2003, BallFlora released the first certified, virus-free cuttings of 'Rose Princess' which is a seedling of 'Blue Princess'.

In the spring of 1999, a cute little petunia (Petunia violacea 'VIP') named 'VIP' (Violet In Profusion or Very Important Petunia) became the fifteen Texas SuperStar. The original plants were grown from seed brought from Germany by Greg Grant. Commercial nurserymen felt that the flowers were too small to be successful BUT it was the only plant they produced that the workers wanted to take home. The 'VIP' petunia was a stand-alone SuperStar which was soon to give rise to one of the most famous Texas SuperStars of all time. A seedling of 'VIP' produced a superior selection of old-fashioned, fragrant, reseeding petunia which was given the name 'Laura Bush' after the then first-lady of Texas. Mrs. Bush married well and now the 'Laura Bush' (Petunia X violacea 'Laura Bush') petunia is the only flower named after the First Lady of the United States of America. In the spring of 2001 the 'Laura Bush' petunia became the twenty-first Texas SuperStar, a couple of years before George W. Bush became the forty-third President of the United States.
BOTH of these petunias have been lost to virus contamination during vegetative propagation. A virus-free population of the 'Laura Bush' petunia can be obtained by periodically (every 6 months) growing a seedling population from the only seed source which is Wildseed Farms. (