Jason Stagg, Owings, Allen D.
Introduction to the Program
The LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station created a new outreach program in 2015 to annually introduce and distribute unfamiliar, non-patented plants to Louisiana’s ornamental nursery and landscape industry. Plant species or varieties selected for the program suffer from limited or no commercial availability and use in the state, but evidence suggests they have excellent landscape performance potential in the challenging Gulf South climate.
While this program is not an official trial study, the industry may benefit from learning about and receiving these stock plants for evaluation of growth characteristics or customer interest. Nurseries may be able to broaden their product lines, and landscapers could diversify their plant material palettes to enhance profitability, while increased distribution of these plants will help preserve unique varieties.
Using plant material free from propagation regulations can present a significant cost savings to the industry when introducing alternative variety selections. A core component of the program is offering “unprotected” plants that can be propagated without any restrictions. Increasing numbers of newly developed varieties on the market carry invention patents, and protecting the inventor’s development costs is important. Patented plants, however, generally require a license to propagate and payment of royalties to the inventor. Another form of protection enables companies to trademark existing unprotected varieties under a new name, which prevents anyone else from propagating and selling the plant with the trademarked name. Because both types of protected plants are generally more expensive, the Plants with Potential program helps the industry by identifying a good mix of economically-grown companion plants to sell alongside premium varieties.
Participants in the program who receive stock plants include small to medium-size wholesale growers, retail nurseries, landscapers, landscape architects, Master Gardener plant sale groups, professional horticulture organizations, public gardens and other university or research facilities. Plants in the program are generally easy to propagate and were chosen based on observed landscape performance of existing plant material at the Hammond station. Plant sources include heirloom varieties, passalong favorites, older or forgotten cultivars, limited regional releases and new non-patented releases.
Plants with Potential: Ornamentals for Industry Consideration
1. Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Kapioloni Bronze’ EUPHORBIACEAE (Kapioloni Bronze Copper Plant) – Tropical shrub producing a dense mass of small reddish-bronze leaves. Plant in full sun for best performance. Upright growth habit to 5’ x 3’. Commercially available from Kartuz Greenhouses in California. Propagated by cuttings. Usually not winter hardy in Zone 8. May over-winter in warmer regions of Zones 8 and 9. The LSU AgCenter provided this plant to the Louisiana Society for Horticultural Research (LSHR) for its 2014 plant release.
2. Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Musaica’ EUPHORBIACEAE (Musaica Copper Plant) – Tropical shrub with very large multi-colored leaves in shades of orange, bronze and green with red to orange markings. Performs best in full sun. Upright growth habit of3-4’ x 3’. Commercially available from Kartuz Greenhouses in California. Propagated by cuttings. Usually notwinter hardy in Zone 8. May over-winter in warmer regions of Zone 8 and ZoOne 9. The LSU AgCenter provided this plant to the LSHR for its 2015 plant release.
3. Begonia sp. ‘Barbara Rogers’ BEGONIACEAE (Barbara Rogers Begonia, possibly Friendship Begonia) – Believed to belong to the semperflorens group of begonias, this vigorous upright garden begonia collected from South Carolina can grow 2-3’ x 2’. Glossy/waxy, dark green foliage is enhanced by flowers oflight-pink to white from spring to fall. Landscape performance is comparable to the BabyWing series. Can be planted in full sun, but prefers part sun. Prune periodically to control leggy growth. Limited availability commercially (Georgia, Florida, Carolinas). Sold at retail by Tallahassee Nurseries. Propagated by cuttings. Perennial in Zones 8 and 9. The LSU AgCenter provided this plant to the LSHR for its 2016 plant release.
4. Lantana camara ‘Belle Starr Gold’ VERBENACEAE (Belle Starr Gold Lantana) – Vibrant yellow and gold flower clusters bloom from spring to frost. Plant in full sun. Grows to 2’ x 2-3’. Excellent butterfly attractant. Propagate by cuttings. Wholesale from Southwest Perennials in Dallas, TX. Reliable perennial in Zones 8 and 9.
5. Pelargonium sp. ‘Mary Helen’ GERANIACEAE (Mary Helen Geranium) – Drought-tolerant heirloom variety from south Texas. Produces medium-red to orange-red flowers spring to fall. Prefers good drainage and protection from the afternoon sun. Plants are vigorous (3-4’ with support). Currently being considered for Texas Superstar plant trials. Brought to the university system (Texas A&M) by horticulturist Jerry Parsons. Not available commercially. Propagated by cuttings. Prune periodically to control leggy growth. Has shown varied over-wintering potential in Zones 8 and 9. The LSU AgCenter provided this plant to the LSHR for its 2015 plant release.
6. Pentas lanceolata ‘Nova’ RUBIACEAE (Nova Pentas, Nova Pink Pentas, Egyptian Star Flower, Egyptian Star Cluster) – This 1999 Georgia Gold Medal Winner is reportedly one of the hardiest and most vigorous pentas varieties. Grow to 3’x 2’ in full sun. Large clusters of 3-4” rose-pink, star-shaped flowers appear atop dark green leaves from late spring through fall. Excellent butterfly attractant. Limited commercial availability. Grown in small numbers in Louisiana by Moran’s Nursery, Baton Rouge. Propagated by cuttings. Prune periodically to control growth. Perennial in warmer regions of Zone 9. The LSU AgCenter provided this plant to the LSHR for its 2014 plant release. Named top 2014 LSHR trial plant..
7. Portulaca oleracea ‘Florida Dwarf Rose’ PORTULACACEAE (Florida Dwarf Rose Purslane) – Trailing/creeping prostrate growth habit forms a dense mat of succulent foliage which bears fuchsia/ magenta-colored flowers. Passalong annual that prefers full sun and well-drained soil. Use as a border or in containers. Propagated by cuttings. Grown by one wholesale nursery in Texas. Retail availability from Arbor Gate, Tomball, TX. Not winter hardy. The LSU AgCenter provided this plant to the LSHR for its 2014 plant release. Named the second highest performing LSHR trial plant in 2014.
8. Salvia sp. ‘Silke’s Dream’ LAMIACEAE (Silke’s Dream Salvia) – Beautiful perennial salvia found in Texas from a cross of S. darcyi x S. microphylla. Produces 15” long spikes of dark orange-red flowers. Attracts hummingbirds and butterflies. Blooms from summer to frost and performs best in full sun. Prefers good drainage and will grow 2’ x 3’. Propagated by cuttings. Commercially available from limited sources (Southwest Perennials, Dallas, TX). Winter hardy in Zones 8 and 9.
9. Turnera ulmifolia ‘Trailing Yellow’ TURNERACEAE (sometimes also listed in PASSIFLORACAEA) (Trailing Yellow Turnera, Creeping Buttercup Turnera, Trailing or Creeping Yellow Alder) – Trailing/creeping form of the yellow-flowering tropical shrub turnera. Bright yellow flowers bloom mid-spring through fall atop small, serrated, dark green leaves. Needs protection from the afternoon sun. Prostrate growth habit up to 8” tall and 2’ wide making it great for hanging baskets, containers or borders. Propagated by cuttings. Poor winter hardiness below 40°F. Limited commercial availability. Grown in Louisiana by Moran’s Nursery, Baton Rouge. The LSU AgCenter provided this plant to the LSHR for its 2015 plant release.
10. Aerva sanguinolenta AMARANTHACEAE (Red Velvet Plant) – Unusual tropical foliage plant ideal for bed edgings and mixed containers. Aromatic, richly-colored burgundy leaves. Produces small Alternanthera-like flowers during short day seasons. Grows 18” x 14”. Plant in full to partial sun. Easily propagated by cuttings. Can be perennial in warmer areas of Zone 9. The LSU AgCenter provided this plant to the LSHR for its 2016 plant release.
11. Cestrum x ‘Orange Peel’ SOLANACEAE (Orange Peel Cestrum, Orange Peel Jessamine) – This is one of the best cestrums at the Hammond Research Station (HRS). A hybrid of Cestrum diurnum x Cestrum nocturnum, this large tropical shrub will take the heat and can quickly grow to 4-8’ x 3-5’, making it an ideal background planting. Dark green, deer-resistant narrow leaves provide good contrast for the numerous golden yellow/light orange tubular blooms. Plant in full sun with good drainage. Excellent hummingbird and butterfly attractant. Fragrance is released at night, but does NOT smell like oranges! Blooms May-June until first frost. Propagated by cuttings. Wholesale availability from Southwest Perennials, Dallas, TX. Can be a deciduous shrub in warmer parts of Zones 8 and 9, but may die back to the roots during cold winters of Zone 8. Needs good winter soil drainage.
12. Glandularia canadensis ‘Carlos’ VERBENACEAE (Carlos Verbena, Carlos Smith Verbena) – Unique bi-color blooming verbena named after the late LSU AgCenter Avoyelles County Agent/Horticulturist Carlos Smith who collected it from his Great Aunt’s homesite near Monroe, LA. Possibly dates to the 1890s. Striking white to lavender flower clusters adorn silver-green foliage. Individual flowers can express both colors. Early season bloomer that slows during the summer heat. Cut back clump in late summer for blooms to reappear in fall. Prefers drier soils, so good drainage is important. Excellent in hanging baskets and containers. Attracts butterflies. Grows 9-10” x 18-24”. Propagates easily from cuttings. Typically evergreen in Zones 8 and 9.
13. Glandularia canadensis ‘Snow Flurry’ VERBENACEAE (Snow Flurry Verbena, possibly Colonial White Verbena) – If you only have room for one verbena other than ‘Homestead Purple,’ this is it! HRS received its original plants from Billy Welsh at the Ira Nelson Horticulture Center in Lafayette, LA. Pure white flower clusters bloom profusely on lush, dark green foliage. Vigorous grower is more upright than most verbenas. Less disease or pest issues. Will bloom all year long, but spring and fall flushes are the most spectacular. Flowering slows during the heat of summer. Should be considered for fall-planted winter color as a companion to violas and snapdragons. Grows 8-12” x 15-18”. Plant in full sun with good drainage. Beautiful in containers and hanging baskets. Propagates easily from cuttings. Butterfly attractant. Retail availability from Plant Delights Nursery, RaleighNC. Evergreen in Zones 8 and 9.
14. Iresine herbstii AMARANTHACEAE (Red Iresine, Bloodleaf Plant, Chicken Gizzard Plant, Beefsteak Plant) – Striking, colorful, lush tropical foliage plant has burgundy or red leaves with magenta veining. Can be used as an annual similar to coleus. Grow in full sun or part shade. Average size is 1-2’ x 1-2’. Water regularly. Occasionally found at retail garden centers. Very easy to propagate from cuttings. May be cold hardy in Zone 9.
15. Pentas lanceolata ‘Pink Remembrance’ RUBIACEAE (Pink Remembrance Pentas) – This old variety is very similar to ‘Nova,’ but has a softer light pink bloom that looks great planted with ‘Nova.’ Plants at HRS are hardy but not quite as vigorous as ‘Nova.’ Grow to 3’ x 2’ in full sun. Large clusters of 3-4” light pink, star-shaped flowers appear atop dark green leaves from late spring through fall. Excellent butterfly and pollinator attractant. Not known to be available commercially, but has been established for 15-20 years at the New Orleans City Park Botanical Garden. Propagated by cuttings, but less success than ‘Nova.’ Perennial in warmer areas of Zone 9.
16. Asystasia gangetica Variegated Ganges Primrose ACANTHACEAE (Variegated Ganges Bellflower, Chinese Violet) – Brightly variegated foliage is topped with light lavender flowers reminiscent of foxglove. This is a spreading plant that makes an excellent groundcover. Growing only 12” tall, it can spread to 24” – 36”. The rounded leaves provide a unique texture when planted in full sun, but the plant also does well in part shade where the variegation can break up the shadows. Not cold hardy. Very easy to propagate from cuttings.
17. Barleria cristata Philippine Violet ACANTHACEAE – This tropical plant returns for us each spring. It can reach 24” – 36” tall and wide, and is used as an attractive summer hedge in some locations. There are numerous species of barleria, and within B. cristata, there are several bloom colors. This selection produces two-inch white blooms with lavender stripes. It is a late bloomer, waiting until September or October to put on a show. The unique flower is worth the wait! Propagate by cuttings. Plant in full sun. Mulch in winter.
18. Lantana X ‘Grandpa’s Pumpkin Patch’ VERBENACEAE - Vibrant flower clusters in shades of orange and dark yellow bloom from spring to frost. Plant in full sun. This is a large lantana that makes an excellent background planting. Grows to 4’ - 5’ x 4’ - 5’. Excellent butterfly attractant. Propagate by cuttings. Retail availability from Almost Eden Plants in Merryville, LA. Reliable perennial in Zones 8 and 9.
19. Ocimum selloi ‘Bellpepper Basil’ LAMIACEAE (Green Pepper Basil) – Yes, it really does smell and taste like a fresh bellpepper! Madalene Hill, the famous Texas gardener and herb enthusiast, considered this one of her favorites. The leaves of this basil are dark green and leathery, and the plant makes a beautiful ornamental specimen in the garden. Could be used as a border since it only grows about 12” – 18” tall. Can reach 24” – 30” wide. The compact plant produces a profusion of tiny purple flowers on spikes that are irresistible to pollinators. Can be planted in full or part sun. Plants retain a darker green color when given some protection from hot afternoon sun. Easily propagated from cuttings. May be perennial in mild winters.
20. Salvia farinacea ‘Rebel Child’ LAMIACEAE – One of Greg Grant’s wonderful introductions from Texas. This is one of our favorite plants at the Hammond Research Station. It was a chance hybrid between ‘Henry Duelberg’ and ‘Cedar Hill’. It can reach 24” – 36” tall and is a vigorous bloomer from spring through first frost. The bloom is bluer than its father Henry, and it is an excellent pollinator attractor. ‘Rebel Child’ is one of the toughest salvias you can plant, and we even had some return after two floods last year! Plant in full sun. Perennial and easily propagated by cuttings. Usually available from some wholesalers and retaiers in Texas such as Southwest Perennials and Arbor Gate Nursery.
21. Stachytarpheta jamaicensis Dwarf Light Blue Porterweed VERBENACEAE – This dwarf form of porterweed grows only about 24” – 30” tall and wide. The compact, bushy growth habit is much more suitable for small gardens and commercial landscapes. The small flowers are considered light blue by some and lavender by others. This porterweed is native to south Florida and the Caribbean. The original plant was given to us by Dr. Brent Pemberton of Texas A&M University in Overton, TX. Use this plant as a bed border, and you will be amazed by the number of butterflies you attract! Most porterweeds should be treated as annuals and replanted each spring. Plant in full sun. Easily propagated by cuttings. Very difficult to locate in the trade. The LSU AgCenter provided this plant to the LSHR for its 2017 plant release.
22. Turnera subulata White Flowered Turnera TURNERACEAE (sometimes also listed in PASSIFLORACAEA) (White Buttercup, White Alder) – Upright, white-flowered species of the tropical shrub turnera. Large white flowers with golden centers bloom mid-spring through fall atop dark green leaves. Pollinators love this plant. Flowers open after sunrise and close before sunset. Usually grows 18”- 24” tall with similar width. Easily propagated by cuttings in warm weather, but slow to root in fall/winter (even in the greenhouse). May regrow after mild winters, but should be treated as an annual. Limited commercial availability.
Hammond Research Station, LSU AgCenter, 21549 Old Covington Highway, Hammond, LA 70403
Phone: 985/543-4125, Fax: 985/543-4124, www.lsuagcenter.com/hammond