Texas Mountain Laurel (Sophora Secundiflora) Complete Guide To Grow And Care

Native to Mexico and the Southwest of the United States, Texas mountain laurel (Dermatophyllum secundiflorum, formerly known as Sophora Secundiflora) is a flowering plant. Not to be confused with Kalmia latifolia, commonly known as mountain laurel, it is also called coral bean, hot bean, frijolillo, frijolito, and Texas mescal bean (though it has nothing to do with mescal).

It is blanketed with clusters of vividly colored blooms that blend lavender, periwinkle, and purple during its blooming season. Additionally, these flowers have a rich fragrance that some have compared to grape Kool-Aid, heirloom German irises, or something similar.

Due to their shape and color, the flower panicles resemble wisteria. They emerge in early spring, sometimes even as early as February, and are followed by seed pods in the summer. Although it is typically cultivated as a huge shrub, it can be coaxed to grow up to 20 feet tall as a small tree by trimming it. This shrub is a native evergreen with smooth, leathery leaves that remain appealing throughout the four seasons. Its leaves are round and slender. The bark is smooth, and the trunk does not usually grow straight.

This plant has a history of use by some Native American peoples as a ceremonial hallucinogen, but it is unrelated to agave, the plant that is the primary element in mescal. Eventually, these people replaced this use with peyote. The seeds have been used to create jewelry beads since they dry to a deep crimson color. This plant is extremely dangerous to humans and animals in addition to its poisonous flowers and leaves. It can withstand drought and harsh growing conditions like clay soil. It is also resistant to deer. Pollinators also adore it because of its vibrant blooms and potent scent.

Texas Mountain Laure Overview

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Common Name Texas mountain laurel, Texas mescalbean, coral bean, hot bean, frigolito
Botanical Name Dermatophyllum secundiflorum
Family  Fabaceae
Plant Type Evergreen flowering shrub
Mature Size  Up to 20 feet tall
Sun Exposure Full sun to part shade
Soil Type  Well drained
Soil pH  Slightly alkaline, 5.4 to 6.7
Bloom Time  March and April
Flower Color Purple
Hardiness Zones  7b to 11, USA
Native Areas   Mexico, Southwest US
Toxicity   Toxic to people, toxic to pets

Texas Mountain Laurel Tree Care

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After it’s established, Texas mountain laurel requires very little upkeep. It can be planted as a hedge or as a lovely patio tree. It does, however, take some time to attain mature size because to its slow growth. Any late-season pruning should be done carefully to prevent cutting off the valuable flower buds, which form in August for the next spring.

Light Requirements

Although it can withstand some shade, Texas mountain laurel is happiest in areas with moderate sun exposure. It grows best in the afternoon sun if planted in a semi-shaded spot.

Soil and Potting

Although it can tolerate a variety of soil types, this shrub thrives in well-drained soils. Fertilizer should only be used if the soil is extremely deficient in nutrients. If the soil is too rich, the plant may grow too quickly, become malformed, or develop weak branches that cannot support the flowers. When planting, a small amount of calcium added to the soil can aid in the plant’s establishment.


For those who want low-water plants in their gardens, the Texas mountain laurel is a great option because of its high drought tolerance. Too quick growth brought on by overwatering can result in weak branch development.

Temperature and Environment

This plant can tolerate long, scorching summers with lots of direct sunlight. Although it can withstand drought, it does need regular rains. The plant thrives in an arid or even desert area, so you shouldn’t be concerned about it being too dry. The plant’s vitality will be reduced by excessive humidity, such as when trying to thrive in a coastal region.

Types of Texas Mountain Laurel

There aren’t many cultivars of this plant available, however, some research has been done using a silver-leafed variation known as “Silver Peso.” There is a suggestion that the silver variety is marginally more resilient to caterpillar damage. Cultivars with white flowers are also available. To find out what cultivars might be available in your area, ask your nursery supplier.

Pruning Texas Mountain Laurel

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In order to ensure that Texas mountain laurel develops robust branches and a beautiful shape, it is beneficial to prune it carefully when it is young. After it reaches maturity, pruning is only necessary to keep the appropriate height and shape and to eliminate any broken branches. You can train it into a tree shape by pruning it carefully in its early years, keeping side growth pruned and branches well-shaped. You can prune it into a small tree or a shrub. Pruning should be done carefully to prevent harm to the major branches or structures of the plant, as they may take longer to recover due to their sluggish growth rate.

Propagating Texas Mountain Laurel

This shrub grows slowly, which contributes to its poor cutting propagation. Purchasing a specimen of this plant from a reliable nursery or other source is the best method to include it in your landscape. If one has the time, one might want to attempt growing from seed.

Growing from Seeds

When the pods are still green and the seeds are a light pink hue (they will eventually turn red), the seeds should be harvested. If pods are hard to open, soak them in water. Prior to planting, seeds should be scarified; the simplest way to do this is with sandpaper; lightly scratch the surface until you notice tiny nicks. You can straight sow in the appropriate growing zones of the garden or plant in containers with potting material. It will take a long time for them to sprout. Till seedlings appear, water once a week for a year after doing so every day for two months. When seedlings are 3–4 inches tall, transplant them from their containers.

Common Pests and Plant Diseases

The Genista broom moth, which likes to eat leaves, occasionally bothers younger shrubs, but the damage is purely aesthetic and does not affect the plant. Bacillus thuringiensis can be used to eliminate these pests, or you can eradicate them by hand, with a garden hose, or with water sprayed. It’s advisable to avoid fertilizing your Texas mountain laurel because excessive fertilization can also cause a caterpillar problem.

Also Read:  Teddy Bear Sunflower Complete Guide To Grow And Care

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