Wood sorrel ( Oxalis sp. )

I had been sure this was a type of clover, but the flowers are the give away. This is oxalis also known as wood sorrel. It showed up in the shady areas of my garden late last winter.

This plant is a vine and is considered an extremely invasive plant in Texas. I think it stays in check here only because that part of the garden is so dry. I’ll be keeping an eye on it. So far it has shown up each spring, vanished when the weather warms, and stayed put.

It is also known by the name of shrub killer. Its vines climb over shrubs, blocking the light from reaching the shrub which then dies of starvation.

So use your own judgment. I don’t think I’d buy it and plant it. If it shows up in your garden keep a very keen eye on it.

I find it to be neither heat, nor drought tolerant and that keeps it from getting out of control here. Each summer it dies back to the ground.

Ball moss ( Tillandsia recurvata )

Tillandsia recurvata is an epiphyte ( air plant ). Epiphytes are plants that grow above the ground, usually on another plant, ball moss can be found growing along electrical lines as well as trees. While ball moss favors oak family trees, it can be found on other species as well.

Ball moss does not harm the trees it grows on. It does favor trees that are not doing well. It uses them as anchors. Many people consider ball moss unsightly and remove it. I don’t mind it. Ball moss is easy to remove from your trees, just use your garden hose sprayer to knock them down. Fungicides that contain copper will kill ball moss, however these leave blue stains on your trees.

Ball moss loves high humidity and you find it more often in Houston proper or south and east of the city than you do up in the north west section. It grows from southern Arizona to southern Texas to southeast Georgia and Florida in humid, wet areas.

It can grow in full sun, but prefers part shade. These are very slow growing plants. Ball moss can handle temperatures down to 20’F. It also prefers locations that are protected from the wind.

Tillandsia recurvata can reach up to 10″ in a clump. Most of the clumps I see around here are just a few inches across. In the fall it sends out long stems that produce small purple flowers.

Propagate by dividing the balls.

Tillandsia plants are part of the bromeliad family and there are at least 400 known species of tillandsia. Most are small plants that are grown for foliage. They grow in warm, wet areas of the world. Some have smooth green leaves, others like ball moss have white scales ( trichomes ). These scales trap and hold water for the plant. Plants go dormant in dry times and can often be re-awakened by a warm shower or rainstorm. The tillansia with white scales can better handle sun than those with the smooth shiny leaves.

Ball moss is especially sensitive to lime, use rain or bottled ( low pH ) water for watering.
They do not like being both wet and cold.
Use only a very weak fertilizer during high growth times.

More information
Floridata: Tillandsia recurvata

Shrimp plant ( Pachystachys lutea lemon sorbet x shrimp )

Shrimp plants bloom through out the warm weather. Normally pink, red and white in color I found this yellow one at the Extension Office plant sale in the fall.

Light shade is best for this plant’s blooms, too much shade and the plant will get scraggly. It is one of the few flowering plants that will bring color to a shady area, and it will get its best color in part shade. 

Shrimp plants may die back to the ground if we have long cold temperatures but should return in the spring. The yellow variety is more cold sensitive than the traditional red variety. This winter we had several hard freezes and the yellow shrimp plant was fine.

Shrimp plants are also drought tolerant once established, but they would rather receive regular watering. Fertile well drained soil is best. Trim ends to encourage bushy growth.

Shrimp plant can reach 3′ tall when happy. The yellow varieties are smaller than the traditional shrimp plant.

Extremely easy to grow. Not a favorite of deer, but is a favorite of hummingbirds.

Mine bloomed profusely all winter and is still doing so. I find it is rather scraggly looking with all the leaves and flowers on the top and bare stems at the bottom. Once the weather warms I’ll cut it back some and hope that it fills out.

Surviving and blooming occasionally during the drought and 3 months of 100’F plus days summer 2011

Spider lily ( Amaryllidaceae Hymenocallis )

These bloom profusely early spring and can be seen in clusters in any damp, boggy area. By summer they have vanished. It prefers shaded areas but can be seen in full sun bogs growing wild. They are grown from bulbs and excellent additions to your bog or swale garden. Flowers are on 2′ tall stems. Blooms are fragrant.

The Burj Dubai building is supposedly inspired and designed after this flower.

The name Amaryllidaceae comes from the Greek word ‘amarysso’ which means to twinkle as many of these flowers do have a slight sparkle. Try not to move these plants, even though bulbs are resilient it takes time for the root system to regrow.

Though they prefer moist soil, they will usually do ok in drier areas.

It will die back to the ground during a drought and re-appear in damper weather.

This plant is a Texas native.

Bloomed during one of the very few early rains summer 2011, expect it’ll be back when the weather breaks.

American Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana)

Beautyberry can be found growing wild along the paths all over The Woodlands. It is a deciduous bush with bright purple berries that appear late summer. It has been found to be an insect repellent and is recommended as a natural way to help keep mosquitoes away.

The berries are very astringent but will be eaten by the birds and other wildlife late winter when other food supplies have vanished. Flowers are tiny, lilac and appear late spring.

The shrub will reach 7′-8′ in height.

Dappled shade is best, it does not mind bad soil and is drought tolerant once established. In full sun leaves become a more yellow-green color. It prefers slightly acidic soil so add vinegar to water occasionally in years when we don’t have much rainfall.

Flowers and berries are on new growth so prune heavily late winter.

This is a good plant for adding color to wooded, shady areas where it is otherwise difficult to grow plants.  It grows wild along the pathways here in full sun to part shade and in dry to wet areas. It should need little care once established.

Survived summer drought and extreme heat 2011

Turk’s Cap ( Malvaviscus arbores var. drummondii )

I’m told this plant prefers some shade and blooms in the spring and fall down here. The one I have is in the shade and it is very slow to grow.

It is a native plant and easy to grow. It will form a 9′ plant along the coast, but by the time you reach Nacogdoches it tops out at about 5′ in height.

It may die back with frost but will return when the weather warms up. Mine had some die back but survived several hard freezes last winter.

Hummingbirds love this plant as do bees and butterflies. The name comes from the shape of the flower whose petals form an interesting spiral pattern.

Blooming is from May through November. This plant comes with red or pink flowers. Pruning should be done late fall and then heavily mulch for the winter.

It has been know to grow near swamps and in very dry areas. Water amounts should not matter once this plant has settled in.

The crinkles you see in the leaves in the above picture are because the nursery had this plant sitting in full sun. It is also prone to mold in full sun. Plant it in part to full shade for best performance.

I don’t know who or what but when I first planted this plant it was dug up about a half dozen times by some critter. Eventually the critter gave up.

The leaves of Turk’s cap are used in herbal medicines. It has fruit which is edible, some bird or critter will likely make off with it from your bush.

[ Mexican Turk’s Cap will not survive frosts. It is similar to Texas Turk’s cap but with longer flowers and smaller leaves ]

Survived and bloomed through the heat and drought of summer 2011