Texas’ Favorite Summer Bloomer

Great Mormon butterfly feeding on nectar from yellow esparanza flowers

By Marc Hess, Editor of Gardening South Texas


“Esperanza is a popular selection for a hedge, specimen, or in conjunction with other pollinator-friendly plants to attract wildlife all summer long. You know it’s an easy-to-care-for plant when you see it used in parking lot landscapes.”

~ Yvonne Schneider, Travis County Master Gardener


Few ornamental shrubs can outperform Esperanza in Texas summers—particularly in south Texas. Clusters of yellow, orange, or red trumpet flowers bloom brilliantly all the way through the summer with or without rain or drought. If winters stay warm enough for a few years, Esperanza can grow into a very large shrub or small tree; however, hard freezes usually take it back down to the roots. It stands out for brightening up an otherwise blasé landscape with its yellow bell-shaped blossoms aglow against its lush green foliage. The tubular flowers hang in showy clusters at the ends of branch tips creating a beautiful cascading effect and attracting hummingbirds, butterflies and bees. Like bougainvillea, Esperanza provides a drought-proof tropical effect. It can also tolerate a wide range of soil conditions as long as the soil does not retain too much moisture. They like it dry and hot.

Esperanza (Tecoma stans) is known by many names – Yellow Bells, Gold Star, Yellow Trumpet Flower, Yellow Elder. It is native to the Americas and is the official flower of the United States Virgin Islands and the floral emblem of the Bahamas. It flourishes in most of Texas where it is considered a deciduous shrub or root-hardy perennial fading back when it gets frosty outside but returning each spring from ground up to produce a spectacular display of yellow flowers throughout the spring, summer and fall. Its roots may survive temperatures into the low twenties. In the upper reaches of north Texas it is often used as an annual or a large container plant which can be moved for winter protection.

Esperanza is becoming increasingly more popular as an ornamental shrub not only because it is strikingly beautiful, but because of its hardiness and durability during hostile environmental situations and it was named a Texas SuperStar® plant due to its ability to adapt and thrive throughout the state. Texas Superstar® Plants are Texas plant selections made by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension horticulturists for proven performance across the state of Texas! These plants have typically been trialed at various locations throughout the state to ensure that they will be superstars when it comes to flower power and reliability. The Texas Superstars® plants program is an extension of the Earth-Kind® Landscaping program.

Being a part of the trumpet-vine family, Esperanza is a small to medium ornamental shrub reaching a height of three to six feet and about the same size in width.  The most prolific flowering occurs if the plant is in full sun. However, it can tolerate some afternoon shade. In late fall, after months of profuse blooming, the blossoms are followed by the formation of seed pods which hang in long vertical clusters (four to six inches). These seed pods eventually turn brown and split open to release the seeds. The plant seeds quite easily, making propagation a no-brainer. Simply gather the fallen seeds, scatter a number of them in pots or in your garden, and in no time, you will have babies by the dozens indiscriminately popping up in pots or your garden. If you want to prolong the flowering period, pinch off the old flowers and immature seed pods (commonly called deadheading) and this will encourage more blossoms to appear.

Remember, established Esperanza plants are very drought tolerant and can tolerate a wide range of soil conditions as long as the soil does not retain too much moisture. “Wet feet” is a sure sign of death to this plant. When putting in a new planting of Esperanza, work a timed-release fertilizer into the soil to give it an extra boost until it gets established. After that, periodic fertilization throughout the growing season will insure a healthy, spectacular plant loaded with yellow blooms.

If your Esperanza dies back when temperatures take a nose dive with the onset of winter, simply cut it back to the ground, mulch around it and it will grow back from the root system in the spring when the weather warms.

Esperanza is not one of deer’s first choice of flowers to munch on, but keep in mind that during a drought they will eat anything, including your Esperanza.

If you want to make a strong, mid-summer, visual impact in your landscape, add pizzazz to complement this already beautiful shrub. Nature is a palette of many colors and textures and by combining different shapes, sizes and colors; you will create a breathtaking display which will draw birds, butterflies, and bees for months on end. Use several grouped Esperanza plants as a backdrop for purple Homestead verbena or Blue Princess verbena which are non-stop bloomers. Combine with lantana which you will find in a wide variety of colors. Cosmos, easily sewn from seed would be a perfect complement with its rainbow of white, pink, lavender, rose and crimson color variations. Even a small to medium crape myrtle or Vitex tree would make a stunning combination. There are endless choices available.