Great medium-size trees for San Antonio landscapes

Last week I wrote about how medium-size trees provide a transition between the lawn or ground covers and shade trees, creating a complex, attractive landscape that can still look neat and manicured. Here are some more medium-size trees – some I recommend more than others – to consider for San Antonio-area landscapes.

Some gardeners may question this choice, and it’s definitely on the taller side of medium. In their book “Texas Trees: A Friendly Guide,” Paul Cox and Patty Leslie write that anaquas eventually grow to 50 feet tall on some streambeds, but most reach about 30 feet.

Anaqua is a slow-growing native evergreen tree that blooms in the spring and produces yellow berries that are favorites of the birds in early summer. But they are sticky, so plant these trees away from sidewalks or cars you want to keep clean.

It has a dense crown of attractive, dark green foliage that serves well to block unwanted sight lines, as a property border, and for nesting and cover for birds. It is listed as one of the shade tree species eligible for a CPS Energy rebate of $ 50.

Some gardeners call anaqua the sandpaper tree because of the coarseness of its leaves. Anaqua is prone to produce a thicket if the stems produced by the roots are not pruned, and many lost their leaves as a result of the February 2021 freeze but survived.

The white blooms of Mexican olive trees are spectacular choice for their production of white blooms, but the trees will succumb to freezing temperatures.

Judy McCarter, For the Express-News

Mexican olive

These lovely trees were hit hard by the 2021 freeze, with many dying back to the ground. After a promising recovery, they froze back again in 2022. Most are now resprouting and will recover.

Mexican olives are a spectacular choice for their production of white blooms, but they just are not freeze-proof. When there are several mild winters in a row, Mexican olive trees will reach 20 feet tall.

It will bloom on the edge of the shade tree border, but it’s best as a specimen tree in full sun. Hummingbirds and butterflies use the blooms for nectar, and the fruit is eaten by other birds and wildlife.

Both Anaqua and Mexican olive are sold at area nurseries.

Retama tree

Retama tree

Nahhan, Contributor / Getty Images / iStockphoto

Retama

Retama is an airy native tree that grows to 35 feet tall. Retamas that were not injured severely by the 2021 freeze are blooming now with yellow flowers. The freeze damaged many of the trees’ branches and some of the main trunks.

Bees and other pollinators seek out the blooms, and wildlife, including deer, eat the seed pods. Some native plant retailers may offer seedlings, or they can be grown from seed.

Huisache explodes into fragrant gold blossoms in spring.

Huisache explodes into fragrant gold blossoms in spring.

Getty Images

Huisache

This week in the garden

It is tomato harvesting time, which means it is also tomato contest time. Check with your garden club and favorite nursery for the timing and rules. One of the best known is the Top Tomato Contest at Fanick’s Garden Center from 9 to 11 am June 11 (bexar-tx.tamu.edu/calendar/top-tomato-contest).

In most cases, area lawns are ready to utilize the nutrients in fertilizer on or about May 1. A slow-release lawn fertilizer such as 19-05-09 is usually effective and environmentally appropriate. If your real grass is growing enough to be mowed, apply the fertilizer now.

Comply with the drought restrictions in your community. If you are in San Antonio, you may water the lawn with the sprinkler once per week based on the last digit of your address (0,1 waters on Monday; 2,3 on Tuesday; 4,5 on Wednesday; 6,7 on Thursday; and 8.9 on Friday) between 7 and 11 am and between 7 and 11 pm Hand-watering is allowed at any time.

Snapdragons are being destroyed by fungal disease rust. It is time to replace them with zinnias, vinca, moss roses and other flowers that bloom in full sun in the summer.


Huisache is another native tree with thorns and flowers that attract bees. Huisache grows to 30 feet tall. They are also blooming now.

As desirable as huisache is to provide cover and nectar for wildlife, it is a difficult plant to manage. The crown is dense, and the thorns are sharp. It also can be very invasive.

It works best on most landscapes to limit the huisache population to one or two plants unless you have lots of land and raise honeybees.

Calvin Finch is a retired Texas A&M horticulturist. calvinrfinch@gmail.com

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