For most situations, we would not recommend installing this plant in new gardens, landscapes, or plantings in southern California.
While Mescal bean is a low water demanding plant, it is rarely available at local nurseries and surprisingly difficult to grow in southern California gardens.
Depending on the situation large shrubs / small trees to consider for southern California gardens instead of this plant include toyon, Mexican elderberry, Ray Hartman ceanothus, and Catalina cherry.
This plant profile is included in this site as a reference for two primary reasons:
- If you already have this plant in your landscape, this information can be used to know how to care for it.
- If you already have this plant in your landscape, you can use this information to learn which of our recommended plants have the same recommended watering needs, making them potential choices for grouping together if you will be adding new plants to the existing area.
In general, instead of this plant, we recommend planting appropriate California native plants whenever possible.
In addition to their beauty, California native plants offer the most additional benefits beyond just low water use, including habitat for the birds, butterflies, and pollinators who evolved here with them. This adds value and beauty in your landscape beyond just a pretty plant, allowing the landscape to actively contribute to the environment instead of just using less water. You can find our top recommended native plant choices on our Plant Finder by selecting “California Native” and learn more about California native plants here.
To learn what exactly California native plants are and how they are different from other low water plants, visit this link.
For visual interest or other reasons, some people may also want to mix in other non-native low-water demanding plant choices even though they do not have the same ecological value as native plants. For that reason, we feature a number of non-native waterwise selections on this site as well. However, we see native plants as the best “go to” for most landscape or garden choices! We encourage people to consider planting at least 50% of their landscape to native plants. See our Garden Designs section or visit our Waterwise Demonstration Garden in Montclair for plenty of inspiration.
The Mescal bean, also known as Texas mountain laurel, slowly grows into a large evergreen shrub or small tree, eventually 15-20 ft. tall, 10-15 ft. wide. Dark shiny green leaves that are pinnately divided into 1-2 in. long leaflets; colorful clusters of highly fragrant violet pea-shaped flowers occur in early spring. Numerous silver-gray bean-like pods grow 2-5 in. long, persist for several months and contain highly poisonous seeds.
Mescal bean is native to arid climate regions of the southwest, from New Mexico and Texas to northern Mexico. It grows best in well-drained soils with moist winters and low amounts of summer water. It is used as a background plant, in raised planters and in courtyards where its deep green foliage and fragrant flowers are appreciated. One cultivar, S. s. ‘Silver Peso’, has striking silvery-gray foliage color with a slower growth rate to 15 ft. tall.