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Fredericksburg Chapter

Esperanza – a N.I.C.E. spring plant and Texas SuperStar

Spring began on March 20th. To celebrate the change of season, the Kerrville
and Fredericksburg NPSOT chapters are promoting the Esperanza (Tecoma stans) at local nurseries as part of the N.I.C.E. Native Plant Partner program. (N.I.C.E. stands for “Natives Improve and Conserve Environments.”)

Esperanza, also known as “yellow bells” and “yellow trumpet,” is a native shrub with a tropical feel. Call it eye candy for your summer landscape – if you get it planted during the spring! Esperanza is seen all over the Hill Country, listed and pictured in every single landscape book around Austin or San Antonio, because of its long bloom time, heat tolerance, and low water use.

In the wild, the native esperanza will be found growing in well drained soil and full sun on rocky slopes near San Antonio and in the Trans-Pecos, north into New Mexico and Arizona, east to Florida and south into Central and South America. The species that is native to the southwestern U.S. and adjacent Mexico is Tecoma stans var. angustata, which is shorter, more drought-tolerant, and more cold-tolerant than some of the tropical varieties sold in nurseries.

South of us, esperanzas are considered almost evergreen, depending on the severity of the winter. Here in central Texas we call it a deciduous perennial – deciduous because it loses its leaves in the winter, and perennial because it comes back every year. The first winter, however, can be stressful or even fatal to esperanzas. That is why they should be planted in the spring, to have many months of root growth before the first hard freeze. And lots of mulch over the roots during that first winter. But at this time of year, that also means waiting to plant it until AFTER our last freeze of the winter. So you might want to hold off on planting it until you feel sure it will not freeze again. Our official “average last freeze” here is April 10.

GOLD STAR ESPERANZA SPECIFICATIONS AT A GLANCE

Exposure: Full sun (will tolerate afternoon shade)
Size: 4-9 feet high
Planting time: Spring, after the threat of a freeze has passed
Soil type: Extremely easy to grow in alkaline to acidic, well-drained soils
Suggested uses: Use esperanza as a single specimen or plant it in groupings for a large swath of color.
Special notes: Esperanzas tolerate very high temperatures and drought – once established – but they do not tolerate poorly drained soils. During its first year, irrigate regularly, every week to 10 days, allowing plants to dry out between waterings.

WHERE TO FIND IT
Our local NICE nurseries have happily agreed to stock up on our Plant of the Season in order to have it available to the public. These independent nurseries carry only the best plants for our area, as well as high-quality soil amendments and gardening supplies.
Look for the “NICE Plant of the Season” sign stake at these nurseries and growers in Fredericksburg, Medina, Kerrville, and Comfort:
Friendly Natives, 1107 N. Llano Street, Fredericksburg, 830-997-6288
Medina Garden Nursery, 13417 Tx. Highway 16, Medina, 830-589-2771
Natives of Texas, 4256 Medina Highway, Kerrville, 830-896-2169
Plant Haus 2, 604 Jefferson Street, Kerrville, 830-792-4444
The Gardens at The Ridge, 13439 S. Ranch Road 783 (Harper Rd.), Kerrville, 830-896-0430
The Garden Haus, 109 Farm to Market Rd. 473, Comfort, 830-995-5610

Cindy Anderson, Kerrville chapter – for N.I.C.E. plants

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About the Region

New Braunfels, the location of our Fall 2024 Symposium, straddles both the Edwards Plateau Ecoregion and the Blackland Prairie ecoregion. Interstate 35 divides the city of New Braunfels; its path through the city closely parallels the boundary of these two ecoregions, with the Edwards Plateau on the west side and the Blackland Prairies region to the east. The Edwards Plateau area is also called the Hill Country; however, this general term covers a much larger area extending farther north. Spring-fed creeks are found throughout the region; deep limestone canyons, rivers, and lakes (reservoirs) are common. Ashe juniper is perhaps the most common woody species found throughout the region. Additional woody species include various species of oak, with live oak (Quercus fusiformis) being the most common. Sycamores (Platanus occidentalis) and bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) border waterways. This area is well known for its spring wildflower displays, though they may be viewed in spring, late summer, and fall, as well. According to Texas Parks and Wildlife, average annual rainfall in the Edwards Plateau ranges from 15 to 34 inches.

The Blackland Prairie extends from the Red River south to San Antonio, bordered on the west by the Edwards Plateau and the Cross Timbers, and on the east by the Post Oak Savannah. Annual rainfall averages 30 to 40 inches, with higher averages to the east. This region is dominated by prairie species. The most common grass species include little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) in the uplands and switchgrass (Panicum virgatum) in the riparian areas and drainages. Common herbaceous flowering plants include salvias, penstemons, and silphiums. This area has suffered greatly from overgrazing and agricultural use. Few intact areas remain, though many of the plants can be found along county roadsides throughout the region.

Our four host chapters (New Braunfels, Lindheimer, Guadalupe, and the Hill Country chapters) are located in one or both of the ecoregions above. However, the eastern portion of Guadalupe County also falls within the Post Oak Savanna ecoregion. Annual rainfall averages 35 to 45 inches, with higher averages to the east. A wide variety of hardwood trees are found, including several species of oaks, elms, and in the Bastrop area, loblolly pine (Pinus taeda). Grasses and forbs dominate in the open savannas, with most common grass being little bluestem. Ranching, agriculture, and fire suppression have allowed woody species to encroach on the once-open savannas.

Source: Wildflowers of Texas by Michael Eason