Allen D. Owings | 5/27/2005 2:20:40 AM
Landscape plant evaluations at the LSU AgCenter regularly identify new plants worthy of increased use in Louisiana, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings.
"Many great perennial flowers are available for our use in Louisiana," Owings says, noting that the somewhat new Aztec series of perennial verbenas from Ball FloraPlant have been good performers in landscape trials. These plants are annuals in other parts of the country but are perennial throughout most of Louisiana.
Many species of verbena are used by gardeners, but the species Verbena canadensis and its hybrids are probably our best performing. This herbaceous perennial is a reliable performer for a minimum of two to three years after its original planting if given proper care.
Perennial verbenas can be planted almost any time of the year but probably will do best when planted in late winter, early spring or in the fall. Select a well-drained site in full sun. The pH is not important. Plants will do fine in slightly acid, neutral and even alkaline soil conditions.
It is best to provide irrigation only during excessively dry periods. Perennial verbenas are very drought tolerant and have powdery mildew and root/stem rot problems when overwatered or during periods of high rainfall. Mulch with pine straw after planting and fertilize with a slow-release fertilizer.
Aztec was first introduced in 2000 and is now available in many colors. Aztec Red Velvet and Aztec Wild Rose are new for 2005. Older colors are deep lavender, cherry red, dark purple, lavender, lilac picotee, peach, pink, red, white and raspberry. New varieties for 2006 in LSU AgCenter trials are Aztec Pearl and Aztec Violet.
Numerous other varieties of perennial verbena are available. The most popular is Homestead Purple. This was a Louisiana Select promoted plant in the 1990s and is still very popular today. This is the most vigorous and earliest to flower of all the varieties.
The LSU AgCenter has done numerous landscape evaluations of perennial verbena varieties, and Homestead Purple is always one of the top performers. Old varieties, such as Texas Appleblossom (which is sold in Mississippi as Port Gibson Pink), Snowflurry (a nice white flowering variety), Fiesta (magenta flowers), Summer Blaze (red) and Taylortown Red (red), are still around in the nursery trade and can be found in Louisiana. The Princess series from Texas horticulturists Greg Grant and Jerry Parsons is superb. The blue variety in the Princess series is sold also as Biloxi Blue.
Perennial verbenas flower best from the late winter through the spring and then in the late summer through the fall. Some flowers are also present in the summer. Prune back the plants occasionally to force new stem and flower production. Re-fertilize at this time also. Butterflies are highly attracted to verbena flowers.
For related topics, look for Gardening and Get It Growing links at the LSU AgCenter Web site, www.lsuagcenter.com. Additional yard and garden topics are available from an extension agent in your parish LSU AgCenter office.