AgCenter introduces new landscape plants program

(05/27/16) HAMMOND, La. – Horticulturists at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station are on the hunt to rediscover underused landscape plants that have performance potential in Louisiana.

Their program, called Plants with Potential, is looking for plant materials that are “unprotected,” said horticulturist Jason Stagg.

“A core component of the program is offering plants that can be propagated without any restrictions,” Stagg said.

Increasing numbers of newly developed varieties on the market carry invention patents, he said. “And protecting inventors’ development costs is important.”

Horticulturists at the Hammond Research Station introduced the program to wholesale and retail nurseries and landscape professionals in 2015.

Plant species or varieties selected for the program currently have limited or no distribution and little use in the state, said AgCenter horticulturist Allen Owings. “But evidence suggests they have excellent landscape performance potential in ourchallenging climate.”

Small-to-medium-size nursery growers could benefit from learning about and receiving these stock plants for evaluation of growth characteristics or customer interest, Owings said.

“Nurseries may be able to broaden their product lines, and landscapers could diversify their plant material palettes to grow their respective businesses,” he said.

Using non-patented plant material free from propagation restrictions can present a significant cost savings and lower risk of offering these new selections, Stagg said. These plants also could be sold at Master Gardener events and at local farmers markets.

“We have an extensive network of plant professionals,” Stagg said. “This allows for discovering and acquiring underused plants that may already be performing well in our challenging conditions.”

This program is designed only to increase awareness and distribution of these plants, Owings said.

“The station is actively engaged with many industry partners and is a trusted source of reliable landscape performance information for ornamentals,” he said.

In 2015 the AgCenter introduced several Plants with Potential, including Musaica and Kapiolani Bronze copper plants, Mary Helen begonia, a creeping form of buttercup (Turnera), Nova pentas, Silke’s Dream salvia, Belle Starr Gold lantana, Florida Dwarf Rose purslane and Barbara Rogers begonia, Stagg said.

Plants with Potential for 2016 include red velvet plants, a cestrum, two verbenas, chicken gizzard plant and a pentas.

Red velvet plant is an unusual tropical foliage plant ideal for bed edgings and mixed containers. It has aromatic, richly colored burgundy leaves. Plants grow 18 inches by 14 inches and do best in full to partial sun. These will only be perennial in extreme south Louisiana and in frost-protected landscape locations, Stagg said.

Orange Peel is one of the best cestrums at the Hammond Research Station, he said. It is a hybrid and grows as a large tropical shrub that will take the heat.

“This plant does best in full sun with good drainage and makes a good container plant,” Stagg said. “It is great for hummingbirds and butterflies and makes a nice display of golden yellow to light orange fragrant tubular flowers.”

Carlos Smith and Snow Flurry, also known as Colonial White, are the two verbena varieties.

Carlos Smith is a unique white and lavender bi-color blooming family heirloom variety from former LSU AgCenter horticulturist Carlos Smith. Snow Flurry verbena has pure white flower clusters on dark green foliage and grows a little more upright than other verbenas.

“Both verbenas have their best landscape performance in the late-winter-to-late-spring season and in the fall,” Stagg said.

Chicken gizzard plant is an Iresine. It is a colorful, lush tropical foliage plant with burgundy or red leaves with magenta veining.

Use it as you would coleus in the landscape or containers, Stagg said. Grown in part sun or part shade, chicken gizzard plants grow to 2 feet tall by fall.

Pink Remembrance pentas is an old heirloom variety similar to Nova that was released in 2015, Stagg said. It has soft light pink blooms. Flowers on this variety and Nova are larger than on many pentas sold at garden centers.

These plants attract butterflies, bees and other pollinators. “This variety has been established for 15 to 20 years at the New Orleans City Park Botanical Garden,” Stagg said.

The LSU AgCenter is actively distributing these plants to industry partners and master gardener groups, Owings said. “The Plants with Potential program will result in new plants for Louisiana landscapes being sold in the next few years.”

Carlos Smith is a bicolored heirloom verbena variety.JPG thumbnail

Carlos Smith is a bicolored heirloom verbena variety. Photo by Allen Owings

Light to medium pink flowers adorn Pink Remembrance Pentas..JPG thumbnail

Light to medium pink flowers adorn Pink Remembrance pentas. Photo by Allen Owings

Chicken Gizzard Plant.JPG thumbnail

The chicken gizzard plant, or Iresine, produces brilliant red foliage. Photo by Allen Owings

5/26/2016 3:30:27 PM
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