BY LORI MURRAY

Last December I had a very interesting phone call. Judy Veach was calling to ask me if I’d ever seen a red Esperanza. A quick trip through my memory banks showed that not only had I never seen such a color, I hadn’t ever even heard of it. So the next morning I was off to see for myself.

Sure enough, although the leaves on the shrub were the same, those lovely bell-shaped flowers were not yellow! They were a beautiful orangey red on the same leafed bush – no doubt about it. My next stop was at Grimsell’s, where the vast knowledge of the staff makes the store my major information source.

There I learned that the plant I had seen was not a pure Esperanza but a combination of the yellow Esperanza and the Cape Honeysuckle.

Crossing an Experanza with a dark orange Cape Honeysuckle, I was told, results in a yellowish orange Esperanza, and crossing a red honeysuckle with a yellow Esperanza produces a red one. Mystery solved (and a good lesson for Lori who always learns something at there.)

Now that the anomaly is explained, let me remind you why the Esperanza is so popular here in our Valley. As I pointed out in a previous article (August 16, 2015), Esperanza is one of a fierce group of plants that “don’t even think about performing until they see others cooking.“ The Gold Star Esperanza – a Texas Superstar – is a perennial here in the Valley and is basically pest-free. It should be planted in full sun and spaced with 3 – 4 feet between bushes.

It can easily grow to 6 feet in height. It blooms from May until at least October and can take long periods of drought. Removing the seed pods causes the plant to produce more flowers.

Propagation can be from seeds (if you leave a few pods on the shrub) that you plant about an eighth of an inch deep and mist with water. They should germinate in 2 – 3 weeks, but remember that the new plants may not be identical to the original plant.

Esperanza can also be propagated from cuttings. If you prune the Esperanza deeply in January, you’ll have an even bushier shrub the next season.

The flowers appeal to bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds and have a pleasing fragrance.) The clusters of yellow blooms have an eye appeal that makes them a great addition to any South Texas landscape.