Plant of the Week
September 3, 2006
The ‘Gold Star’ Esperanza is known botanically as Tecoma stans and is in the family known as Bignoniaceae, which means it is related to the native cross-vine. It is a tropical native to the warmest parts of the United States, Mexico and South America. It is listed as a zone 9 or higher plant. In San Antonio, we normally expect them to reach 4 to5 feet tall and mounding. They are much larger in frost-free areas.
‘Gold Star’ Esperanza is a wonderful selection of Greg Grant made from a private garden in San Antonio while he was Director of Research and Development at Lone Star Growers (now Color Spot Nursery). ‘Gold Star’ was selected because it was the earliest blooming Tecoma stans trialed. Previously, Esperanza was difficult to sell as it didn’t produce blooms in the container until late in the season. ‘Gold Star’ actually produces blooms at the liner stage.
This particular selection is intermediate in all characters between the West Texas Tecoma stans angustata and the tropical Tecoma stans. Although grown as a shrub and a perennial in San Antonio, South Texas, and Mexico, Esperanza works best in most gardens as a tropical container plant, similar to Hibiscus, Bougainvillea, and Mandevilla. It is generally sold in one gallon or three gallon containers.
It was chosen as a Texas Superstar winner judged from the many satisfied gardeners in San Antonio and throughout the State of Texas. This evergreen shrub produces yellow, bell-shaped flowers from spring through frost. It practically laughs at the full-sun heat in July and August. The striking flowers are complemented by dark green, glossy foliage. Butterflies and hummingbirds relish the ‘Yellow Bells’ nectar.
Esperanza bloom best in a site that receives full sun, but they also perform nicely in morning sun and afternoon shade. Grow them in large containers around the porch, patio or deck, or plant in fertile, well-drained soil in the tropical-style garden. Amend heavy, poorly drained soil with the addition of 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and till to a depth of 8 to 10 inches.
While preparing the soil, incorporate 2 pounds of a slow-release,19-5-9 fertilizer per 100 square feet of planting area. Dig the planting hole two to three times as large as the root ball and plant at the same depth it is growing in the container.
Feed container-grown plants with a diluted water-soluble 20-20-20 or Host agro fertilizer every other week, or use controlled-release granules according to the formula recommendation. Keep in mind that daily watering and high temperatures usually mean fertilizing more often. Feed those plants in the landscape every four to six weeks with light applications of fertilizer.
Remove seedpods as they form to keep flowers producing, or save a few seeds for planting indoors next winter. They are also easy to propagate from cuttings, and the smaller plants are easier to over-winter.
Use the ‘Gold Star’ Esperanza around the pool for a look of the islands. Grow under tall banana trees or upright elephant ears. Combine with other hummingbird-attracting plants like the Fire Bush or Mexican Bird of Paradise, or even the hardy perennial Firecracker plant. Also try it in front of dark purple forms of buddleia.
‘Yellow Bells’ is often sold generically, but the variety name, ‘Gold Star’ Esperanza from the Texas SuperStar program, is spreading across the country. For more information on Texas SuperStar plants visit the website at http://www.texassuperstar.com/plants.html
It is fun to grow tropicals around our homes, and it is especially nice when they bloom non-stop. This represents good value for your dollar whether you want to protect them through the winter or start over next spring. Plant ‘Gold Star’ Esperanza…It’s a winner!
Remember, Learn and Have Fun!
David Rodriguez is the County Extension Agent-Horticulture for Bexar County. He represents Texas Cooperative Extension with the Texas A&M University System. For any landscape or gardening information, call the Bexar County Master Gardeners Hotline at (210) 467-6575, email questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, or visit our County Extension website at http://bexar-tx.tamu.edu/
Special Note: Listen “live” with David Rodriguez every Saturday morning between 8:00- 11:00 am on WOAI 1200 AM Gardening Show. Feel free to call in at 737-1200 or 1-800-383-9624. Check it out!