New flower varieties shine in research evaluations

By ALLEN OWINGS

LSU AgCenter

horticulturist

HAMMOND — Each fall, research gardens across the country, such as those located at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station, announce some of the best landscape plants that have performed well in trials during that year.

Through 2013, several companies introduced new and improved flowers, roses, trees and shrubs for home and commercial landscapes. Here are a few highlights of how some of these plants performed in LSU AgCenter research trials.

New coleus introductions continue from several companies. Honey Crisp from Ball FloraPlant has done well. And a late-summer trial is evaluating promising new additions from Proven Selections, including Ruby Dreams, Golden Dreams, Dream Catcher and Colorblaze Marooned.

The new sister of the Senorita Rosalita cleome from Proven Winners is a lighter blush flower — Senorita Blanca. This plant matures at 4-feet tall in the full sun landscape and attracts butterflies during summer and fall. As with Senorita Rosalita, this improved cleome selection has no spiny thorns on the stems and does not set seed, so it keeps on blooming spring through fall.

New copper plants in the trial gardens at the LSU AgCenter this year are Kapiolania Bronze and Musaica. These plants, sometimes also called copper leaf plants (Acalypha), are great foliage plant additions to the late-spring-through-fall color landscape bed. These plants prefer full sun and are low-maintenance and drought-tolerant.

Sahara Sunset, a new Hibiscus acetosella from the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service in Poplarville, Miss., has been a great landscape performer. Plants offer unique multicolored foliage and have a more compact growth habit than similar varieties currently in the marketplace.

More than 40 varieties of hardy perennial hibiscus are being evaluated this year. So far the varieties from Walters Gardens — with some being part of the Summerific program at Proven Winners — have been the most impressive performers. Varieties include Berrylicous, My Valentine, Pink Elephant, Jazzberry Jam, Party Favor, Midnight Marvel, Cranberry Crush, Tie Dye, Summer Storm and Sultry Kiss.

A purslane that is a “pass-along” plant obtained from a nursery in Texas is called Florida dwarf rose. Blooms stay open longer during the day than other purslanes. The plants are prostrate-growing and laterally branch well without the aid of growth regulators or pinching. These plants are well-adapted to hanging baskets.

LSU AgCenter horticulture researcher Yan Chen is once again conducting shade and sun caladium trials at the Hammond Research Station. New varieties being evaluated this year that will be available in 2014 include Peppermint, Starburst and Pink Splash. New varieties trialed last year that were available his year include Bombshell, Party Punch, Highlighter, Hearts Delight, White Cap, Cherry Tart and Creamsickle.

A new shrub rose will debut in the Southern Living Plant Collection in 2014. Fruit Punch will mature at 3-feet tall with a 3-foot spread.

Horn Canna Farm in Oklahoma debuted six new canna varieties for 2014 — Ibiza, Kreta, Musifolia, Golden Lucifer, Pacific Beauty and Chinese Coral. All have performed well. Unfortunately, we still do not have a leaf–roller resistant canna variety for the Gulf South.

A great new bedding plant is O’Primiera otomeria. These plants are excellent performers in extreme heat and humidity and are a new choice for Louisiana home gardeners and industry professionals. They are low-maintenance, prefer full sun and will bloom constantly throughout the summer. Members of the O’Primiera series include Pink, Baby Pink, Ruby and White.

Other plants that have performed well this year, primarily in the Hammond Research Station sun garden trials, include new crape myrtles (five colors of Black Diamonds introduced this year and four additions for 2014 set to join the Delta Jazz variety), new angel trumpets, new lantanas from Proven Winners, Sparkle White gaura, Enduro White Blush verbena and more.

You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website at www.lsuagcenter.com/hammond.

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