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!

Fall is an Ideal Time to Plant Trees

Fall is the time to plant trees

Planting trees from October through February allows them to get their root system established before the spring growing season and the heat of the summer.

When it’s time to plant trees keep in mind some of the benefits that trees offer homeowners:

  • Shade for your house, trees can reduce temperatures significantly
  • Enhance the appearance of your house and neighborhood
  • A screen can be created with trees to block unsightly views
  • Trees are essential for wildlife, providing food, shelter, and protection
  • Trees help to reduce pollution

Some of my favorite trees:

  • Live Oak – 50′ x 60′, evergreen, native to most areas of Texas
  • Shumard Red Oak – 60′ x 50′, beautiful fall colors
Time to plant trees - Shumard Red Oak - 60' x 50', beautiful fall colors
Shumard Red Oak
  • Bur Oak – 60′ x 60′, large acorns, majestic tree!
  • Cedar Elm – 60′ x 40′ – upright growing tree, tolerant of a variety of soils, drought tolerant
  • Texas Ash  – 30′ x 20′, a good tree for smaller yards, excellent fall color, drought tolerant, grows on poor soils
  • Texas Redbud – another smaller tree 25′ x25′, rosy-pink spring blooms, Oklahoma Redbuds have a darker pink bloom, will tolerate light shade
Texas Redbud - another smaller tree 25' x25', rosy-pink spring blooms, Oklahoma Redbuds have a darker pink bloom, will tolerate light shade
Texas Redbud

When it’s time to plant trees, don’t forget about fruit and nut trees! Nothing better than a fresh picked Parker County Peach!

When it's time to plant trees, don't forget about fruit and nut trees! Nothing better than a fresh picked Parker County Peach!
Peach Tree

The state tree, Pecan, makes a great shade tree too.

Here is a good source for more info about tree planting!

Fall Ideal for Planting Trees and Shrubs

Visit Stuart Nursery to see the great selection of trees available. We offer tree planting services also.

 

 

Drought Tolerant Plants

Texas Sage

So thankful for the rain we got recently. My plants were really getting thirsty! I don’t water my landscape much. I’ve tried to plant mostly drought-tolerant plants in my yard. Most all of them have survived the drought this summer.

Here are some of the drought tolerant plants that have made it in my landscape with no extra watering, just what little rain that we had this summer.

Texas Sage  – (pictured above) A shrub for full sun and well-drained soil. Nice purple flowers!

Rough Leaf Dogwood – These are very versatile shrubs, they grow in sun to shade, soil preference from dry to seasonal poor drainage. Useful for erosion control and as a screen under trees. Many species of birds feed on the white berries that ripen in the fall.

Mexican Oregano – I’ve grown this plant for years. I didn’t water it at all this year and it has suffered, but it is still alive! Covered with lavender-colored flowers all season, the hummingbirds love this plant. The leaves are edible, and the plant is also deer resistant.

Agave – Of course, there are quite a few varieties of agaves that do well here. One of my favorites is the Whales Tongue Agave. They really make a statement in the landscape and there is no need for supplemental watering.

Agave - Drought tolerant plants
Agave

Possum Haw Holly – A very versatile small tree, it will take full sun to dappled shade. The female trees will have bright red berries that stay on the tree from fall to early spring, (until the Cedar Waxwings arrive!)

Possum Haw Holly
Possum Haw Holly

Autumn Sage ( Salvia greggii) –  A  shrubby perennial that blooms from spring to fall. It takes full sun to partial shade. These salvias are very drought-tolerant but bloom much better with occasional watering. Hummingbirds and butterflies both like this plant.

Autumn Sage ( Salvia greggii)
Autumn Sage ( Salvia greggii)

All of these plants that I’ve mentioned are well established in my landscape. Anything newly planted in the landscape will need supplemental watering the first couple of years at least.

Well, I hope we get nice rains this fall and winter and average temperatures!

Urban sprawl and deer-resistant plants

Esperanza and Lantana

I went outside this morning to water some plants in my front yard. I made my way to the pot of Pink Flamingo Celosia which has been growing nicely & blooming. I love this plant because it provides great nourishment for the butterflies. To my utter shock, the leaves and flowers were stripped bare. They even managed to pull one plant up by the roots! I guess the deer were hungry last night! They have munched on it a couple of other times, but not to this extent. Every evening at dusk, I watch the deer go across our front yard; I suppose going to greener pastures across the street. There are always at least 2 or 3 does and several fawns. Last night there were a few bucks with them. I don’t mind sharing my Celosia with them (although I wish they’d leave a little for the butterflies)!

Urban sprawl and deer-resistant plants

Urban sprawl is certainly impacting these deer, and they are being forced to live in smaller and smaller islands of habitat throughout the region. So, I guess if my plants look tasty to them…they won’t hesitate to eat.

However, I also have several kinds of salvia planted which they leave alone. Keep in mind, “deer-resistant” doesn’t mean deer will never try these plants, just that they don’t prefer them.

Here are a few more plants that deer don’t seem to bother:

  • Texas Sage
  • Texas Mountain Laurel
  • Firebush
  • Lantana
  • Esperanza 

Landscape options

When considering a landscape design, it is important to decide what your preferences are regarding attracting wildlife. If you like seeing them and don’t mind sharing your plants, there are many native plants that can provide benefits to these critters. On the other hand, if you’d prefer to keep your plants bite-free, you can still find a great variety of plants (both native and ornamental) that can meet your needs.

At Stuart Nursery you can also purchase, Plantskydd, a deer repellent product. It comes in a liquid or a granular to sprinkle on the ground. It is organic. If you have deer in your area and you have new trees planted you might want to protect the trunk against rubbing with some fencing. Sometimes just three or four t-posts installed around the trunk will keep them away.

With all the new development and building in Parker county, deer are losing their ‘stomping grounds’. By using deer-resistant plants and possibly deer repellents hopefully, we can learn to live with them!

~Judy

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