How to Grow Texas Mountain Laurel

  • jack Officer
  • Jun 04, 2023

Dermatophyllum secundiflorum

The intoxicating perfume of Texas mountain laurel is sufficient to trigger drivers to slam on the brakes or canine walkers to abruptly cease brief, giving poor Fido whiplash.

Famed TV chef Emeril Lagasse used to lament the non-invention of “smell-o-vision.” I want for “smell-o-website” so I might share with you the heavenly scent produced by the beautiful purple flowers of those shrubs.

Even higher, that is a kind of vegetation that disperses its aroma a number of ft; I can odor my neighbors’ plant’s blooms from throughout the road.

A close up vertical picture of the purple flowers of the Texas mountain laurel shrub with a black butterfly on the flowers in bright sunshine on a soft focus background. To the center and bottom of the frame is green and white text.

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Some examine the scent to grape Kool-Assist, soda, or gum, however the perfume is deeper, richer, and extra floral than the substitute aroma of processed meals.

Learn on to study extra!

What Is Texas Mountain Laurel?

Texas mountain laurel’s shiny, darkish inexperienced leaves are evergreen and leathery. The massive clusters – so long as six inches – of showy flowers seem in early spring, and sadly, bloom for only a few weeks earlier than withering and taking their scent away.

A close up of the bright purple flowers of the Dermatophyllum secundiflorum shrub, the blooms contrasting with the dark green leaves in light sunshine.

Although these slow-growing vegetation will be saved pruned to a shrub dimension, most frequently they’re allowed to mature into small treelike kinds 10 ft huge and 15 ft excessive, multi- or single-trunked.

Older specimens of their pure habitat can attain 30 to 50 ft tall at maturity.

However the breathtaking bouquet is simply one of many charms of this Texas native, which is hardy to USDA Hardiness Zone 7b.

This plant has a number of common-name aliases, together with coral bean, scorching bean, mescal bean, mescal bean sophora, frigolito, frijollito, frijolillo, coral bean, big-drunk bean, and colorin.

A few of these are reflective of the plant’s native territory, which along with central, southern, and western Texas, additionally consists of New Mexico and northern Mexico.

A vertical picture of a Texas mountain laurel shrub growing up the side of a building in bright sunshine. In the background is a large white building with a dome roof in soft focus with blue sky.

However, Texas being Texas, we needed to stamp it with our personal identify, after all.

Beforehand identified interchangeably as Sophora secundiflora and Calia secundiflora, latest phylogenetic research have led to the reclassification of sure members of the Sophora genus into Dermatophyllum – a taxonomic synonym for Calia.

You’ll nonetheless see Texas mountain laurel known as S. secundiflora or C. secundiflora in some locations.

Pretty as they’re, the flowers of Texas mountain laurel are poisonous to people and animals, as are the plant’s seed pods and leaves. The seeds – known as mescal beans – are a reasonably orange-red shade and are generally used as necklace beads.

Cultivation and Historical past

A fast notice: these of us right here in Texas perceive there’s one other plant that calls itself “mountain laurel.” However, our laurel is unrelated to Kalmia latifolia, a member of the heather household, Ericaceae, whereas ours is within the pea household, Fabaceae.

A close up of the pink and white flowers of the Kalmia latifolia bush on a soft focus background.
Kalmia latifolia, a member of the heather household can be known as “mountain laurel.”

Poisonous mescal beans have been used ritually by indigenous peoples of the Central and Southern plains tribes for his or her psychoactive properties. Proof of their use will be present in quite a few archaeological websites in Texas and Mexico, and exhibits that these cultures additionally used the colourful seeds decoratively.

The mescal beans comprise plenty of toxic quinolizidine alkaloids, together with cystine, a narcotic alkaloid with the same molecular construction to that of nicotine.

Nevertheless, regardless of the identify, they don’t comprise the hallucinogenic alkaloid mescaline, discovered within the peyote cactus. Nor ought to they be confused with the alcoholic beverage mezcal, which is produced from the agave plant.


These vegetation develop slowly, so should you’re searching for a direct assertion within the panorama, you would possibly take into account buying a well-established specimen in a big container from an area nursery.

A close up of a purple flower of the Texas mountain laurel shrub with green foliage surrounding it on a soft focus green background.

Texas mountain laurel doesn’t propagate effectively from cuttings.

Nevertheless, should you’re affected person, you possibly can develop a Texas mountain laurel from seed.

From Seed

Seeds that fall from the plant can take years to germinate, as they’ve extraordinarily arduous shells. However a couple of methods could present quicker outcomes, should you’d prefer to develop some seedlings for transplant into the backyard.

A close up of a dried seed pod of the Texas mountain laurel plant, cracked open showing the bright red seeds within, on a soft focus background.

If you happen to’re amassing seeds, choose the pods once they’re nonetheless largely inexperienced however simply beginning to flip grey. The seeds will likely be pale pink and their shells will likely be comparatively smooth.

Sow these in gallon-sized containers with holes within the backside crammed with well-draining potting combine. Water usually.

Alternatively, you possibly can direct sow within the backyard. Bury the seed about half an inch deep.

And be affected person.

If somebody fingers you some arduous, older pods, soak them in water to make it simpler to interrupt them aside and get on the seeds. With each donated and bought seeds, chances are high they’re extra mature. You’ll need to scarify them earlier than planting, as they’ve extraordinarily arduous shells.

As you’d with morning glories, scratch them up with a knife, for instance, or use sandpaper.

A close up of the hard seed pods of the Texas mountain laurel bush surrounded by foliage in bright sunshine with the blue sky in soft focus in the background.

You may strive soaking the seeds in heat water for 2 to a few days, altering the water commonly to maintain it tepid. This method seems to work greatest should you first make a small lower within the robust outer shell.

Nevertheless you plant your seeds, water them every day for the primary couple of months, then about as soon as every week for one more yr.

From Seedlings or Transplants

When transplanting into the bottom, combine some further calcium into the soil on the planting web site to assist vegetation get established.

Dig a gap barely greater than the basis ball, then fastidiously place the basis ball into the outlet, and backfill with planting web site soil.

Mature Texas mountain laurels have a deep root system, and they don’t transplant effectively as soon as established.

Find out how to Develop

Texas mountain laurel prefers alkaline, well-drained rocky soils, together with people who comprise limestone. They’ll do effectively in clay, loam, and sand, and can tolerate being planted in or close to turf.

A Texas mountain laurel shrub growing in the garden with bright purple flowers contrasting with the green foliage in light sunshine on a soft focus background.

Select a planting web site in an space that will get full solar. D. secundiflorum will even tolerate mild shade for a part of the day.

As soon as established, these drought-tolerant shrubs require little to no irrigation.

In addition they do completely effectively with no fertilization, however in areas with very poor soil you possibly can add a small quantity of a balanced fertilizer comparable to NPK 10-10-10 in springtime.

Rising Ideas

  • Plant in a sunny spot
  • Soil ought to be alkaline and well-draining
  • Water commonly for the primary yr


There isn’t any precise must prune Texas mountain laurel. However if you wish to change its kind, say, into extra of a conventional tree form, or right into a extra compact bush, you are able to do so.

A vertical close up picture of a Dermatophyllum secundiflorum shrub with light purple flowers contrasting with the bright green surrounding foliage.

Remember the fact that the blossoms solely seem on year-old wooden. So when you may be tempted to prune throughout winter dormancy, this would possibly lead to much less ample blooms.

Another pruning time is in the summertime, after it has completed flowering. When the brutal warmth strikes, like many people, these vegetation will go dormant.

Prune not more than one-third of the plant at a time. First prune out any deadwood. Then lower out skinny, spindly branches. There’s no want to make use of pruning paint.

To encourage peak, prune out decrease branches and go away only one, two, or three trunks. For a extra shrub-like look, trim the higher branches.

The place to Purchase

If you happen to’re searching for reside vegetation, you possibly can usually discover them in backyard facilities and plant nurseries in areas the place they sometimes thrive. Shopping for seeds on-line generally is a bit hit and miss, as they could not all the time be viable.

Managing Pests and Illness

Let’s begin with the excellent news. Deer go away this one alone, so nothing to fret about there.

The dangerous information is that this plant is tormented by Uresiphita reversalis, aka genista caterpillar or sephora worm.

A Texas mountain laurel bush, with purple flowers and bright green foliage in bright sunshine in a city park with the buildings in soft focus in the background.

This yellow-bodied immature moth can strip the leaves off a Texas mountain laurel very quickly flat, although the foliage nearly all the time grows again and the plant suffers no everlasting injury.

The caterpillars kind free webbing on the vegetation they’re decimating.

Management these one-inch-long snackers with Bacillus thuringiensis.

Finest Makes use of

Texas mountain laurel makes a beautiful specimen tree or shrub, which is primarily how I see them grown in Austin.

A Texas mountain laurel bush pruned to a tree-shape, planted in an urban area surrounded by buildings and other small shrubs in bright sunshine.

You too can create a tall display screen with these, by planting a number of in a row and letting them bush out.

Fast Reference Rising Information

Plant Kind: Shrub Flower / Foliage Colour: Purple; darkish inexperienced
Native to: Texas, New Mexico, Mexico Upkeep: Low
Hardiness (USDA Zone): 7b-11 Tolerance: Rocky soil, drought
Bloom Time / Season: Late winter, early spring Soil Kind: Poor to common
Publicity: Full solar to partial shade Soil pH: Above 7.2 (alkaline)
Spacing: 10 ft Soil Drainage: Effectively-draining
Planting Depth: Seeds: 1/2 inch; transplant: similar depth as root ball Water Wants: Minimal
Top: 15 ft Makes use of: Specimin or display screen
Unfold: 10 ft Household: Fabaceae
Development Fee: Sluggish Genus: Dermatophyllum
Attracts: Butterflies, bees Species: secundiflorum
Widespread Pests: Genista caterpillar (also called sephora worm) Widespread Illness: Root and crown rot

A Rose of a Completely different Title

Gardeners searching for a tricky evergreen tree or shrub that perfumes the air every spring with a floral scent that stops visitors ought to take into account Texas mountain laurel.

Awful soil? No rain for weeks? Hungry deer? No drawback. D. secundiflorum takes all of it and comes out smelling like a… glass of grape Kool-Assist?

A close up of a Texas mountain laurel shrub with purple flowers and developing seed pods in light sunshine, fading to soft focus in the background.

Have you ever grown Texas mountain laurel? Share your ideas and ideas within the feedback part.

If you happen to’d prefer to study extra about rising different shrubs, take a look at these articles:

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