Texas mountain laurel is a tough evergreen shrub or small tree native to Mexico and the American Southwest. It is known for its attractive, fragrant flowers and its extreme drought hardiness. Keep reading to learn more about growing Texas mountain laurels in the landscape.
Texas Mountain Laurel Info
What is a Texas mountain laurel? Of no relation to the flowering mountain laurel shrub native to the eastern United States, this shrub/tree is a native of the Chihuahuan desert. Also known as mescal bean, the Texas mountain laurel (Dermatophyllum secundiflorum syn. Calia secundiflora, formerly Sophora secundiflora) ranges from Texas through the American Southwest and down into Mexico.
Slow growing, it can reach up to 30 feet (15 m.) in height with a spread of 15 feet (4.5 m.), but it often stays much smaller than that. It produces vivid blue/purple flowers shaped like wisteria blossoms with an intense fragrance that has been compared, not unkindly, to grape flavored Kool-Aid.
These flowers eventually give way to thick seed pods containing bright orange seeds that, while beautiful, are very poisonous and should be kept away from children and pets.
Texas Mountain Laurel Care
As long as you live in the right climate, growing Texas mountain laurels is very easy and rewarding. A desert native, the plant is both heat and drought tolerant, and it actually thrives in poor conditions.
It prefers well-draining, rocky, infertile soil, and it needs full sun. It does not respond very well to pruning, and should be cut back only slightly when absolutely necessary in the spring.
It is hardy down to 5 degrees F. (-15 C.) and can usually survive winters in USDA zone 7b. Due to its toughness and its native status in the Southwest, it is an excellent choice for xeriscaping and for road medians, sidewalks, and courtyards, where soil is poor and maintenance is low.