Pink cuphea still blooming in December


After our early freeze in mid-November, we’ve had a splendid spell of mild weather. There’s been no dragging of cold-tender potted plants inside to clutter the house. Fingers crossed, we’ll get through Christmas without another freeze. Somehow the pink cuphea escaped cold damage in November and is still blooming its head off. I find the fuchsia, tubular flowers so cheery.


Paired with a potted (elevated) ‘Color Guard’ yucca, it adds even more late-season zing to the garden.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Plant This: Chile pequin will spice up your garden


Native perennial chile pequin (Capsicum annuum var. glabriusculum) adds hot color to the fall garden with a profusion of tiny, red peppers held upright on rambling green stems adorned with chartreuse, spade-shaped leaves. And if you taste one, you’ll find it heats up your tongue as well! These diminutive peppers pack a fiery punch that rivals the habanero, or so I’ve read, having never dared to sample one myself. I leave that to the birds, which are unaffected by spicy heat.


Michael at Plano Prairie Garden passed along this volunteer to me, and I love how it works with the yellow stripes of ‘Bright Edge’ yucca. I grew chile pequin in my former garden as well, pairing it with fall blooming spider lilies (Lycoris radiata) that echoed the red of the peppers.

Chile pequin has always grown well for me in part shade to full shade, but I’ve seen it in full sun as well. Once established, it’s fairly drought tolerant, and it generally dies back in winter but returns from the roots. If you enjoy providing food for birds, chile pequin’s 5-alarm fruit is a favorite, which is why it’s also known as bird pepper. It grows to about 2 feet tall and wide — a small plant with spice to spare.

Note: My Plant This posts are written primarily for gardeners in central Texas. The plants I recommend are ones I’ve grown myself and have direct experience with. I wish I could provide more information about how these plants might perform in other parts of the country, but gardening knowledge is local. Consider checking your local online gardening forums to see if a particular plant might work in your region.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Golden pomegranate is pretty wonderful for fall color


I know many of you have mentally moved on to Christmas. But Austin’s fall color comes late, and the golden leaves of my ‘Wonderful’ pomegranate keep catching my eye through the window while I try to work. So naturally, instead of closing the blind so as to get work done, I got my camera and went outside for a photo op to share with you.


I am really loving the various greens and yellows in this view. The small, yellow-and-green yuccas at left are Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’. The tall, blue-green yucca beside the pomegranate is Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’, one of my favorite plants. The dark-green shrub to the right of the pomegranate is a young Texas mountain laurel (Sophora secundiflora), and the clipped shrubs are ‘Winter Gem’ boxwoods.


Here’s the same view from last June. The Yucca rostrata has grown a lot more than I realized this year! (Scroll up for comparison.) And as you can see, I let the purple coneflowers go to seed to feed the birds. They don’t detract from the garden’s beauty, instead adding their own melancholy tone to a fall scene.


Like most Southern gardeners, I like having a lot of evergreen plants to keep the garden lively during the brief winter. But markers of seasonal change are just as essential, otherwise the garden may as well be a stage set. Don’t you agree?

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.