Native trees and shrubs for Bluebirds

Bluebirds North Texas Trees and Shrubs

“Somewhere over the rainbow, bluebirds fly.” ~ Wizard of Oz

Bluebirds are a joy to see with their beautiful blue plumage. Their coloring has been said to resemble the blue sky above and the red dirt below! Three kinds of Bluebirds call Texas home, the Eastern, Mountain, and Western. The Eastern Bluebird is the one most commonly seen in the Parker County area. They are useful around houses and farms as they have a hearty appetite for many kinds of insects.

  • What to plant

Bluebirds prefer open grassy areas with small trees and shrubs. In addition to insects, bluebirds eat berries and fruits. Some good native trees and shrubs to plant in the north-central Texas area include Yaupon and Possum Haw Holly, Rough Leaf Dogwood, Elbow Bush, Eastern Red Cedar, and Pokeberry.

  • When to prepare 

January – March is time to get bluebird houses out. Bluebirds begin nesting in late February – early March. If you have existing houses, clean them out at this time. do go ahead and remove old nests. A bluebird nest is neat and tidy, constructed mostly of grass. By comparison, an English Sparrow nest is sloppy and made with various materials, twigs, paper, string etc..

  • Birdhouses

A birdhouse for bluebirdsUse a house that can be opened, preferably from the side, so that it can be cleaned out yearly. An easy way to mount a house, drive a 4’ piece of rebar into the ground about 2’. Slide a 6 to 7 ft galvanized steel pipe over the rebar. the smooth steel pipe makes it harder for predators ( snakes, cats, raccoons) to get access to the nest box. Mount the houses at about 5-6 feet. English Sparrows are also a threat to nesting bluebirds. If you notice sparrows trying to nest in a bluebird house, remove their nesting material. You might have to do this several times before the sparrows give up and go look for a house elsewhere.

  • Nesting

Female birds will lay 4-5 eggs. The male Bluebirds will bring food to the female while she is nesting. Eggs will hatch in 13-15 days. Male and female will help feed the young for about a month till the young birds can find food on their own.

Fun with Tillandsias, or air plants

Tillandsias, or air plants as they are often referred to, are in the Bromeliad family,  native to tropical America. An epiphytic or tree-perching plant, Tillandsias are named after Elias Tillandz, a Swedish physician and botanist.

Tillandsias are popular and fun plants to grow in your home.

Spanish Moss (a type of Tillandsia) ‘perching’ on trees is a familiar sight in the southern U.S. It does not harm the tree it inhabits, absorbing most of the nutrients it needs from the atmosphere. Occasionally you will see Spanish Moss attached to electrical lines!

Caring for Tillandsias

There are several misconceptions about the care of Tillandsias. Just because they are called air plants doesn’t mean that they require no care.

Watering

One of the more common mistakes is how to water your plants. Occasional misting is good, but a consistent watering schedule is essential. It is good to soak your plants in a small amount of water once a week or so. Don’t leave them soaking too long, (20- 30 minutes). I killed a batch of plants one time by forgetting about them overnight!

Air plants will not survive in standing water. I like to take my plants and hold them under running water for 20-30 seconds about once a week, more often in hot weather. Be sure to shake the excess water off the leaves after watering. Plants should be able to dry off within 3-4 hours after watering. It is better to underwater than to overwater. A warning sign that an air plant is too dry is the curling in of the leaves.

Fertilizing

Fertilizing once or twice a month is beneficial. I use fish emulsion, at 1/4 strength. I also like to use SUPERthrive. Make your fertilizer solution and soak the plant for a few minutes.

Air Circulation

Good air circulation is a must for Tillandsias. Growing them in a terrarium is not a good idea. A kitchen is a good place to grow Tillandsias, being the most used room in a house, with good light and airflow. I have five or six Tillandsias in my kitchen, I see them every day and that helps me to remember to water them!

Light

Air plants grow best in bright indirect light. Some green varieties will survive in lower light conditions and some white varieties will take brighter light. Green varieties are found in low land habitats ( rainforests ). The white Tillandsias are covered with trichomes ( a hairlike bristle ) giving them their white fuzzy look. The white varieties are usually from mountainous, drier habitat.

Keeping a consistent care regime will go a long way toward making your Tillandsias happy and thriving!

Displaying Air Plants

One of the most enjoyable things about growing Tillandsias is that you can place them in just about any container that strikes your fancy! Here are some ideas:

A great gift idea

At Stuart Nursery, you’ll find a large selection of Tillandsias. Prices range anywhere from $5 to $25. Visit Stuart Nursery to pick out your favorite air plant! We are expecting a new shipment soon!