Texas Mountain Laurel

Photo Credit: Randy Lemmon

Simply put, it’s all about the fragrant blooms when it comes to the necessity of having a Texas Mountain Laurel in your Gulf Coast or Texas-based landscape. The Texas Mountain Laurel truly is one of the best smelling flowering small trees in our entire state.  In March, April and May, I get lots of questions to my radio show from people wanting to know what’s this beautiful plant that also smells so awesome?

Technically, the Texas Mountain Laurel is Calia secundiflora.  It is obviously well-known for its pendulous clusters of purple, fragrant flowers that look as good as they smell. What’s so special about the smell of its blooms??  It smells exactly like Grape Kool-Aid… I kid you not!

This popular plant is often used as a flowering, evergreen shrub but, with time and proper pruning, it can be trained to grow as a small, multi-trunked tree.  The Texas Mountain Laurel grows slowly from 8 to 15 feet tall with a 6 to 10 foot spread.  Its multiple trunks support a disperse canopy of glossy green leaves.

In the spring, Texas Mountain Laurel produces bright purple, drooping clusters of fragrant flowers. And not only do the flowers smell so darn good, but they are a striking color of purple!

By mid-summer, the flowers fade and give rise to fuzzy, tan colored seed pods. The small, orange seeds are poisonous, but the seed pods and the seed coats are hard and fairly difficult to crack.

I believe this plant is native to Mexico, New Mexico and the Hill Country of Texas, which is why it can take our high temperatures in the summer and stay evergreen-looking. It prefers all day sunshine, and it can actually excel in alkaline, almost rocky soils.

Bottom line it has to have good drainage. Possibly the only way to kill it is to drown the root system by having too much organic matter that never properly dries out. In other words, keep it away from peat moss-based soils. It mixes well with cactus and other desert adapted plants adding a unique color, texture and fragrance to the landscape.