LSU AgCenter Conducts Bedding Plant Trials and Evaluations

Allen D. Owings, Witcher, Anthony L., C.P. Hegwood  |  6/24/2005 6:38:43 PM

News You Can Use for February 2004

The last five to 10 years have seen a tremendous increase in the number of annual bedding plant species and varieties available for residential and commercial landscape use. The LSU AgCenter has conducted landscape trials on annual bedding plants for a number of years, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings.

"The objective of these studies has been to determine the performance of warm season and cool season varieties under growing conditions in Louisiana," the LSU AgCenter horticulturist explains.

Research and demonstration projects are conducted at the LSU AgCenter’s Burden Center in Baton Rouge. In the fall of 2003 these efforts were moved to a new research site at Burden Center that is being dedicated for ornamental and turfgrass efforts.

"Replicated plantings are established throughout the season and are conducted in raised landscape beds located in full sun," says Burden Center director Dr. Pat Hegwood, noting, "Plants are watered as needed, based on species requirements and current environmental conditions." Fertilization, weed control and similar cultural activities are conducted based on currently recommended practices.

Recent trials at Burden offer a number of new bedding plants for the spring planting season in March, April and May.

"One of the newest trends in bedding plants has been the release of new petunia varieties," says extension associate horticulturist Anthony Witcher. "Most of the new petunias are seed-propagated spreading petunias, including the ‘Wave’ petunias."

Witcher says Wave petunias reach heights of about 12 inches and, as the name implies, spread about 2-3 feet. Available colors include purple, pink, misty lilac and rose.

New additions include ‘Lavender Wave’ and ‘Blue Wave.’ Over the last couple years, ‘Tidal Wave’ petunias have been introduced. These are classified as hedgiflora petunias. They reach a height of 3 feet with a spread of 3 feet. Colors available in the ‘Tidal Wave’ group are cherry, pink, silver and purple. Also, ‘Easy Wave’ petunias are available in several colors and have a growth habit most suited for hanging baskets.

"Melampodiums are not a well-known warm season annual bedding plant but well worth growing, based on LSU AgCenter observations," Witcher says. These plants produce yellow or golden daisy-like flowers and do great from late spring into the fall. Plant in full sun and keep irrigation at a minimum for best performance. ‘Derby’ and ‘Million Gold’ are two recommended varieties. A new variety, not yet planted in trials by the LSU AgCenter, is ‘Lemon Delight.’

"One of the best plants for butterfly gardening are pentas," Hegwood says. For a number of years the only penta series available were the ‘New Look’ pentas. In LSU AgCenter trials the last two years, ‘Butterfly’ pentas have been the better performers. They do great from late spring through the fall and are vigorous growers and prolific flower producers. No significant disease problems have been observed on the ‘Butterfly’ pentas. They are available in a number of colors – lavender, blush, cherry and similar shades.

‘Profusion’ zinnias are a new group of zinnias referred to as landscape zinnias. The ‘Profusion’ zinnias are available in three colors – white, orange and cherry. All colors have been named All-America Selection winners, according to Owings. ‘Profusion White’ and ‘Profusion Orange’ also have been named Louisiana Select plants because of their superior landscape performance.

"Another group of zinnias worthy of mention is the narrowleaf zinnia," Owings says, adding, "The most popular of these is ‘Crystal White.’" It is similar in growth habit to the ‘Profusion’ group but has smaller flowers and finer textured foliage.

New in begonias are ‘Dragon Wing Red’ and ‘Dragon Wing Pink.’ These have a different growth habit than landscape begonias. They are a spreading plant with larger foliage. They seem to hold up fairly well in a full sun landscape planting.

"These begonias are worthy of increased use in the landscape and would also work well in container plantings," Owings says.

In addition to annual bedding plant evaluations, Hegwood says trials also are conducted on garden mums, poinsettias, herbaceous perennials, roses and other ornamental plants. These efforts will be additionally enhanced over the next couple of years with the completion and expansion of the new ornamental and turfgrass research area at Burden Center, the director explains.

Related yard and garden topics are available by contacting an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office. Also, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links in the Feature section of the LSU AgCenter Web site: www.lsuagcenter.com.

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
On the Internet: www.louisianalawnandgarden.org.
Source: Allen D. Owings (225) 578-2222, or aowings@agcenter.lsu.edu.
Source: Anthony Witcher (225) 763-3990, or AWitcher@agcenter.lsu.edu
Source: Pat Hegwood (225) 763-5511, or CHegwood@agcenter.lsu.edu

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