Joseph’s coat provides colorful foliage; Little Ruby variety named Super Plant

Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.  |  4/5/2013 9:37:24 PM

Little Ruby alternanthera. (Photo by Allen Owings.)

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News Release Distributed 04/05/13

By Allen Owings

LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – Joseph’s coat, which includes several species of Alternanthera, is one of those old garden plants that is becoming new again. These are foliage plants for the landscape.

As the story in the Bible refers to Joseph’s “coat of many colors,” this plant’s foliage of many colors makes it a great addition to flower gardens.

Joseph’s coat is a perennial that is normally grown as an annual, but it can be perennial in the warmest, most protected landscapes of extreme south Louisiana. It is best planted in midspring (April through May), but it can be planted through late summer.

Some varieties need and perform best in full sun while other varieties need a partially shaded to shaded situation in order to avoid leaf scorch. Foliage colors will change as sun exposure changes. Plants are usually not highly dependent on irrigation once well-established.

The Party series of Joseph’s coat is from ItSaul Plants in Georgia. Garden centers in Louisiana occasionally have available a few of these varieties, which include Partytime, Raspberry Rum, Cognac, Grenadine, Crème de Menthe and Mai Tai. The new variety being introduced in 2013 is Mimosa. Most of these varieties do much better in shade than in sun in Louisiana.

Other great Joseph’s coats perform best in sunnier locations. These include Brazilian Red Hots, Red Threads, Yellow/Chartreuse (True Yellow), Gold Threads, Snowball, Little Ruby, Purple Knight and Gail’s Choice.

So, which Joseph’s coat is really great and deserving of Louisiana Super Plant status? Little Ruby.

Little Ruby has been named a Louisiana Super Plant for spring 2013. It is one of the newer varieties and is best suited to a full-sun setting. It is a great, low-maintenance landscape plant and has richly colored dark burgundy foliage with ruby undersides.

These plants stay short all season long, reaching heights of 16-18 inches by fall. Plants are mounding – spreading to about 20-24 inches. Pruning to shape is typically not needed. The excellent compact growth habit of this plant is another super feature – Little Ruby requires no deadheading.

Little Ruby usually doesn’t depend on irrigation once well-established, but it likes some moisture in the soil. When you plant, space them about 18 inches apart for best “fill-in” without being overgrown by fall. The Little Ruby variety works best in the landscape when planted in front of flowering annuals or perennials or along the outside edge of a color bed.

Louisiana Super Plants have a proven track record of several years of university evaluations and observations by industry professionals. Home gardeners and professional horticulturists alike can benefit from using Louisiana Super Plants. Louisiana Super Plants are “university tested and industry approved.”

The Louisiana Super Plants program has three parts. The first identifies outstanding plants. The second makes sure the plants are available at retail nurseries and garden centers. The third gets out the word about these great plants to Louisiana gardeners.

Previous Louisiana Super Plants for spring include Senorita Rosalita cleome, Baby Wing begonias, Shoal Creek vitex, Serena angelonias, Butterfly pentas, Penny Mac hydrangea and Frostproof gardenia.

Previous fall selections include Swan columbine, Redbor kale, Camelot foxglove, Southern sugar maple, Amazon dianthus, ShiShi Gashira camellia, Belinda’s Dream rose, evergreen sweetbay magnolia, Conversation Piece azalea and Sorbet violas.

Louisiana Super Plants are promoted to generate interest and awareness of these outstanding plants. Look for information on Louisiana Super Plants in newsletters, magazines and newspapers and on television, radio and the Internet. In addition, look for signs showing which plants are the Louisiana Super Plants selections at your local nurseries.

You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by viewing the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals.

Rick Bogren

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