Too much shade plagues tens of thousands of home landscapes all across Texas. Why? Because the vast majority of plants known for their striking blossoms prefer sunny locations, and they flower poorly, if at all, in shady areas. Horticultural help is on the way however for, after many years of testing and development, a new “Queen of the Shade–dappled Garden” is about to ascend her Texas throne.
This delicate, bold and beautiful perennial has been christened the ‘Texas Gold’ Columbine. This plant, whose scientific name is Aquiligia chrysantha ‘Texas Gold,’ is heaven–sent for partially shady areas of Texas landscapes. A Texas native, this new plant is a cultivated selection form a rare perennial wildflower found in moist, shady areas only along a few remote streams and waterfalls in the Big Bend area of west Texas.
Years of field testing by horticulture specialists with the Texas Agricultural Extension Service have shown ‘Texas Gold’ to be a truly superior performer. Its advantages include:
- Being considered by many professionals to be our most spectacular shade–blooming perennial and one of the best new plants to be made available in years.
- Across much of the state, many commercially available columbines weaken or die the very first summer! ‘Texas Gold,’ however, has the native toughness and ability to tolerate the heat of Texas summers, thus it is truly perennial and will give you years of enjoyment without the expense and hassle of replanting. This is true Texas value from a true Texas native.
- Its elegant, stately beauty is truly something to behold. Butter yellow blossoms, highlighted by graceful cups and long, dramatic spurs, are held well above the attractive foliage for maximum impact. Occurring on long, branching stems, these flowers also make good cut flower specimens. As an added bonus, the blossoms have a pleasing honeysuckle–like fragrance, and are attractive to hummingbirds.
- Long blooming for a perennial, ‘Texas Gold’ rewards the homeowner with bounteous blossoms from late March through early May. A grouping of several such plants can be breathtaking.
- Unlike some perennials which at times look rather weedy, the scalloped, bluish gray–green foliage and compact, rounded growth habit of ‘Texas Gold’ make it attractive year round.
‘Texas Gold’ should give excellent performance in all areas of Texas with the possible exception of the Rio Grande Valley and the Panhandle. Even in these two areas, ‘Texas Gold’ is most worthy of trial planting (Lubbock and northward, plant in semi–shade along the south wall of a building for winter protection).
“Earth–Kind” Growing Tips
Proper site selection and soil preparation are crucial factors in making ‘Texas Gold’ plants happy in your landscape.
- Site selection in this case means partial shade. An ideal site would be under a canopy of a deciduous tree (i.e. drops its leaves in the fall) as the columbine would then receive what it truly loves: sun–dappled or partial shade in the summer for heat protection, more sunlight in the winter when the plant is actively growing. Avoid areas of dense, heavy, continual shade.
- Provide well drained soils high in organic matter. It will not tolerate wet feet or standing water! If your soil is a sticky, poorly drained clay, raised beds are highly recommended.
- Prior to planting, incorporate an “Earth–Kind”" slow–release fertilizer, one in which at least 50% of the nitrogen is in the slowly available form, at the rate of 2 pounds per 100 square feet of planting area. Each year, reapply a slow–release fertilizer high in nitrogen at this same rate in October, December and February to help stimulate foliage production.
- Space plants two feet apart at planting. At maturity, the foliar portion will reach a height of 18–24 inches. Also, ‘Texas Gold’ needs one inch of water every 7–10 days, either from a soaking rain or thorough irrigation.
If spider mites or leaf miners make the foliage unattractive by mid to late summer, use hedge shears or a string trimmer to completely remove all foliage down to a few inches above the crown of the plant. Gather and destroy this infested foliage to greatly reduce pest populations without having to resort to pesticides. When temperatures cool in the fall, new leaves should be produced and the plants will come on like gangbusters.
To maximize its landscape performance, arrange in easy, natural drifts, avoiding the regimentation of straight lines. Mass them in the perennial border, or tucked into unused corners of flower beds, or almost anywhere you need bold spring color.
Plants already blooming in one gallon containers are great for instant beauty. If covering a large area, consider plants in 4–inch pots which, while they likely will not bloom until spring of 1994, are less expensive and represent excellent value.