Plant trees shrubs and grasses in the fall

Published on Wednesday, 11 October 2017 19:24 - Written by ANDIE RATHBONE, Smith County Master Gardeners

Plant trees shrubs & grasses in the fall

Fall is the best time to plant trees, shrubs and ornamental grasses. The cooler temperatures and more abundant rainfall give the plants an opportunity to grow their roots and establish themselves before the heat of another summer sets in.

The Smith County Master Gardeners will offer some outstanding (and unusual) specimens at their From Bulbs to Blooms Conference and Sale at Harvey Convention Center on Saturday.

Here are some of the outstanding selections available at the sale:


Redbud Merlot (Cercis X Merlot) is a cross between the Texas White Redbud and forest pansy. Its Texas genes make it drought tolerant and able to withstand our hot Texas summers. This deciduous tree has glossy dark-purple leaves, and its upright dense growing habit makes it perfect for small yards.

Texas Whitebud (Cercis canadensis) is a small, deciduous understory tree that typically grows to 12 to 18 feet tall with heart-shaped leaves that open soft pink and then turn a glossy, rich green as they mature. In early spring before the foliage emerges (March through April) it blooms profusely with clusters of white flowers.

Vitex shoal creek (Vitex agnus-castus “Shoal Creek”) is an outstanding variety of a terrific small, multi-trunked tree that grows to 10 to 15 feet at maturity. Its flower spikes are larger than in most common Vitex varieties at 12 inches, and are vibrant lavender blue. It is very drought tolerant and once established (about two years after planting) never needs to be watered. Hummingbirds and butterflies love Vitex, so this tree will attract plenty of them to your garden. No wonder this tree was named a Louisiana Super Plant in 2011.


Blue Giant Fig (Ficus caricature “Blue Giant”): Growing your own delicious figs is one of the bonuses of gardening in the South, and this cold-hardy variety produces huge fruit with attractive purple skin three to five years after planting. The Blue Giant Fig will grow up to 15 feet in height with a 12-foot spread. It is easy to care for and fast growing, so you won’t have to fuss much with this tree. Blue Giant prefers moist soil and full sun. Give it these conditions and it will produce abundant fruit for you all season long.

Natchez Blackberry: Everyone loves blackberries, but traditionally the bushes are so thorny that the gardener learns exactly what B’rer Rabbit meant when he said to B’rer Besar, “Oh don’t throw me into the briar patch!” Luckily, this Texas Superstar is thornless, which makes planting and harvesting its fruit painless. Usually thornless blackberries aren’t as productive or flavorful as the thorny varieties, but Natchez, which was developed by the University of Arkansas breeding program, is the exception, producing large berries with lots of flavor.

Tifblue Blueberry (Vaccinium virgatum ‘Tifblue”): Our acid soils give us the ideal conditions for growing blueberries and the Tifblue Rabbiteye Blueberry Bush is considered by the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Service to be the most outstanding Rabbiteye blueberry on the market. The most cold-hardy blueberry in the Rabbiteye family, Tifblue grows to 6 to 8 feet at maturity and makes a great screening hedge that brings extra enjoyment when harvest season arrives.


I’ve been wondering for years why, after all the newspaper and magazine articles, people still murder their crape myrtles every January. Maybe it’s because the variety planted in their landscape is just too big. Good news! We’ll be selling crape myrtles that are meant to stay small and will not need to be topped every year to fit into your landscape.

Pocomoke is a true dwarf crape myrtle that only grows as a mounding shrub with a maximum height of 3 feet.

Houston Miniature Weeping Crape Myrtle is a miniature crape myrtle that grows 2 feet tall and 2 feet wide with watermelon pink blooms. It has the popular weeping or umbrella type branching and it is great as a low-growing foundation plant or grown in 14-inch pots.

Ebony Embers is a larger crape myrtle that grows to a height of 8 to 10 feet with intense black/burgundy foliage that makes a dramatic background for its fire-red blooms. This is an excellent choice for an under-story tree or a striking garden accent.


Pink Muhly Grass (Muhlenbergia capillaris) is my favorite ornamental grass. It grows from 3 to 6 feet in height by 1to 3 feet wide and in the fall blooms with masses of airy, vibrant pink flowers on 4-foot stems that can literally stop traffic. Muhly grass thrives in full sun or partial shade in average, moist, but well-drained soil, but will tolerate drought, heat and poor soils.

Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon spp) is a genus of grasses native to Africa, Asia, Australia and tropical islands in the Pacific. Lemongrass is widely used as a culinary herb in Asian cuisines and also as medicinal herb in India. It has a subtle citrus flavor and can be dried and powdered, or used fresh. It is commonly used in teas, soups and curries. Its oil is also commonly used as a “lure” to attract honey bees. It grows to 3 to 4 feet at maturity and its tall, arching leaves make it look great in a mixed perennial border or in a container garden.

All of these will be available at the Smith County Master Gardener “From Bulbs to Blooms” conference and sale. Find Smith County Master Gardeners on Facebook; visit or call 903-590-2980 for more information.