The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Office at 9020 Airport Road in Conroe is open for normal business hours. For gardening questions call (936)539-7824.
Plant sale List Click on this link 2020 MCMGA Fall Plant Sale List
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|The mission of the Montgomery County Master Gardener Association is to educate the community through fellowship and demonstration using research-based gardening information.|
All Gardening Classes are cancelled until further notice
Plant of the Month
By Elisabeth Castro, Master Gardener
August is finally over. Plants are showing signs of heat stress and watering plants in pots has become a daily occurrence. But not for this plant, Flame Acanthus, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (A. wrightii), named for the botanist who collected this plant in Texas in the mid 1800’s. It is native from West to Central Texas but does equally well in other parts of Texas as it is quite drought tolerant and impervious to heat. Flame Acanthus is a small bush with a height of 3-5 ft and a width of approximately 3-4 ft. It takes well to shearing and can be used as a small hedge. The leaves are thin, light green and opposite of each other.
What makes this shrub so spectacular are the orange-red tubular flowers that cover the plant even in the extreme heat of August. A little bit of rain and more blooms appear. It blooms all summer through fall. Hummingbirds and butterflies swarm around this plant looking for nectar. Why certain plants produce nectar and others do not is not completely understood although, literature suggests that plants bred for bigger flowers and other features, such as color, have lost their ability to produce nectar and scent. For butterflies, nectar is their major source of nourishment. Flame Acanthus provides copious amount of nectar in their orange-red tubular flowers. Some plants produce nectar at different times of the day. According to Geyata Ajilvsgi, in Butterfly Gardening for Texas, ”Concentration of nectar in the early morning is often very low in some plants. As the day advances, the intensity of sunshine, rising temperatures, or reduction of humidity may cause the sugar percentage to increase up to four times.” It is no surprise that butterflies are all over Flame Acanthus from mid to late afternoon.
Flame Acanthus is also a favorite in Wildscaping, which is a way of designing your home’s landscape to attract and benefit wildlife. Lastly, the Garden Volunteers of South Texas recommend Flame Acanthus as one of their must have plants for a butterfly garden.
Fall: The best growing season in SE Texas
By Bob Dailey, Master Gardener
September is an ideal time to start an herb garden. The mint family alone (Lamiaceae) contains many different types of herbs, including basil, lemon balm, several varieties of mint, oregano, Mexican mint, rosemary, sage, and thyme. Use your imagination and come up with an exciting design. Perhaps install it outside your kitchen. You might want to purchase “Southern Kitchen Garden,” by William Adams and Tom LeRoy, which provides some great information about herbs and vegetables in a small garden.
Now’s the time to get cole crop transplants in the ground: broccoli, kale, kohlrabi, collards, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, mustard greens, and cabbage. Make sure you provide enough fertilizer and water. Liquid fertilizer works best for these cole (or Brassica) crops. Put in root crops like carrots, beets, turnips, and radishes (although radishes and turnips are also Brassicas.)
Perennial flowers and plants
It’s a little too early here to begin planting fall perennials. Wait until October, when it’s cooler. However, take care of your warm-season perennials. Give them balanced fertilizer. If it’s a dry fertilizer, scratch it into the soil and then water it in.
Fall webworms (tent caterpillars) are coming around about now, and are incredibly hard on pecan and mulberry. While the worms won’t kill the tree, they may weaken it somewhat. The webs they spin are unsightly, but the worms hiding in the fragile tents are an essential food source for birds and predatory insects preparing for the winter months. Instead of poisoning the worms (or heaven forbid, burning them), use a long pole to break holes in the webbing. Red wasps and birds will make short work of them. I did this on a large buttonbush a few years ago. In several hours, the webworms had disappeared.
The hot summer has wreaked havoc on many lawns. And September is still a little early to do a final fertilizer push. I’d wait until October, when it’s a little cooler, to fertilize the lawn. You might also consider top dressing your lawn with about ¼ inch of good compost.
Critter of the Month
Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly
By Elisabeth Castro, Master Gardener
Like other Swallowtails the Spicebush has the distinct “swallowtails” on their hindwings. Also, like the Pipevine and Eastern Black Swallowtail, the coloring of the wings is mostly black with a spot pattern on the upper side and underside of the hind wings. To the trained eye these are quite different. What is also different is the appearance of the larva or caterpillar. Like the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly, the caterpillar in its early stages (instars) resembles a bird dropping, but as it molts into the 5th instar it sheds its bird dropping look and turns green with two large orange-yellow eye spots on a hump on the thorax. These eyes are ornamental as the true eyes are tiny dots on the smaller head. During the day, the caterpillar spins silk to tighten a leaf around itself and resumes eating at night.
The Spicebush Swallowtail Butterfly is quite common in the South. It can be found in woodland areas, along stream banks, and flower gardens. They prefer flowers that form clusters such as Lantana, Liatris, Joe Pye Weed, and Butterfly bushes (Buddleia). Spicebush Swallowtails also love mud puddles and patches of moisture along a stream.
Life Cycle Stages:
Egg – 4-10 days
Larval – 3-4 weeks
Chrysalis – 10-20 days (depends on time of the year). Could overwinter in colder areas.
Adult Butterfly – 6-14 days
For host plants, Spicebush Swallowtails prefer the native Spicebush (Lindera benzoin) and Sassafras (Sassafras albidum). They also seem to like the non-native Camphor Tree (Cinnamomum camphora). Other native trees include Red Bay (Persea borbonia), Sweet-bay Magnolia (Magnolia virginiana), and Tulip Tree (Liriodendron tulipifera).