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Tuesday - September 01, 2009

From: Odessa, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Compost and Mulch, Watering, Shrubs
Title: Esperanza failing to bloom in Odessa TX
Answered by: Barbara Medford


I have 3 Esperanza plants that have not bloomed this spring/summer. I live in Odessa, TX. We had about 5 inches of rain in July in one week (very unusual), but they have not bloomed-before or after. Sprinkler system runs 3 nights a week, but does not get much on the area where planted. What do I need to do?


We know we are sounding like a broken record, but the last two years of Texas weather have been a great trial to native plants. Tecoma stans (yellow trumpetbush) is native to Texas. a drought-resistant desert plant, and usually quite dependable, so we're at a loss, too. The range of this plant in Texas from USDA Plant profile does not appear to include the Odessa area. However, we don't feel it is far enough out of range to explain the problem. Like all desert plants, Esperanza needs very good drainage, so we are looking at the unusual rain (and why did you get a week of rain and Austin hasn't gotten a teacup-full?) and frequent watering as a possibility.

From our Native Plant Database, here are the growing conditions for Esperanza:

Water Use: Low
Light Requirement: Sun , Part Shade
Soil Moisture: Dry
CaCO3 Tolerance: High
Cold Tolerant: yes
Heat Tolerant: yes
Soil Description: Rocky soils. Limestone-based, Sandy, Sandy Loam, Medium Loam
Conditions Comments: Yellow bells produces great, yellow, attention-grabbing blossoms. The plant will not tolerate extreme cold well, but cutting it back to the ground in winter can help maintain yellow bells in your spring and summer landscape. Yellow bells is drought tolerant and makes a good potted specimen.

The soil descriptions certainly sound right for Odessa, and we don't believe you have had any cold weather extreme enough to affect the blooming.  We are going to make several suggestions, none of which will hurt the plant, and hopefully one or more will get your plant blooming again. First of all, try to improve the drainage around the plant. If the drainage is not good, that rain in July could have done some damage by causing water to stand on the roots. Try working some compost or other organic material into the soil around the plant, and mulch the roots to keep them cooler. See if you can find a way not to water the area around the plant 3 times a week, once a week is sufficient for a desert plant. Next, don't fertilize. The beauty of native plants is that they seldom need fertilizer because they are already adapted to the environment. Often, gardeners will apply extra fertilizer to a plant under stress, hoping to help it, but you should never fertilize any plant under stress. The failure to bloom is definitely a sign of distress. If you apply lawn fertilizer, high in nitrogen, to all your area, that will cause the leaves to grow vigorously and be green, but discourage blooming. Since your plant was not blooming before all that rain in July, we think this could be the most likely culprit. Tecoma stans ordinarily blooms from April to November, so it's possible you will not have any blooms this season.

We would suggest that you correct the drainage, watering and fertilizing as indicated, and then follow the suggestion in the Growing Conditions and cut the plant back to the ground this winter. Hopefully, that will rejuvenate it and it will go back to providing those gorgeous yellow blooms for months. 


From the Image Gallery

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

Yellow bells
Tecoma stans

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