Jason Stagg, Edwards, Ashley
Now in its sixth year, the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station’s Plants with Potential Program is still going strong with five new selections for 2020! We normally distribute these at our Margie Jenkins Lecture Series and Spring Industry Open House, but the COVID-19 pandemic postponed that event. We still have some of these plants propagated in the greenhouse, so please reach out to Jason at the contact information below if you wish to try some of these in your nursery or landscaping business.
1. Anthericum saundersiae or Chlorophytum saundersiae – Shooting Star Lily – ASPARAGACEAE – A showy alternative to mondo grass or liriope. Narrow, dark green grass-like leaves form clumps about 1-2’ tall and 1-2’ wide. Gracefully arching spikes of white, star-shaped flowers appear above the foliage throughout the warm growing season. Perennial in south Louisiana as it is root hardy in Zones 7, 8 & 9. Usually evergreen. Prefers sun to part shade and moist but not overly wet soil. Easily propagated by dividing clumps.
2. Bletillia striata – Chinese Ground Orchid – ORCHIDACEAE – Well known to “pass along plant” gardeners, this tough plant deserves more use in commercial landscapes as an unusual groundcover. A terrestrial orchid, the pleated bright green upright foliage offers a contrasting texture to common cast iron plant. In our heat this plant does better in part shade, as the foliage will look cleaner in these conditions. In spring, spikes of 18” bright purple orchid flowers are easily visible within the foliage. Plants are not dense and are 12”-18” tall and wide, slowly spreading to a larger clump over time. Root hardy in Zones 6, 7, 8 and 9. Easily propagated by dividing clumps.
3. Cestrum elegans – Purple Cestrum – SOLANACEAE – We love tropical cestrums here at the Hammond Research Station for their reliable and unusual clusters of tubular blooms! This purple-flowering species blooms in the summer, which is later than ‘Orange Peel’ and ‘Butterscotch’ (past Plants with Potential selections). Somewhat less cold hardy than the other two, and with narrower leaves, it rewards us with an unusual purple/lavender flower color that almost vibrates with eeriness! Blooms attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Grows almost as tall (4’-5’) as other selections but narrower (3’-4’). Plants usually die back to the roots in winter. Plant with ‘Orange Peel’ or ‘Butterscotch’ for LSU-themed gardening! Easily propagated by cuttings in summer or early fall. Root hardy to Zones 8 and 9.
4. Justicia spicigera – Mexican Honeysuckle, Firecracker Plant – ACANTHACEAE – Another root-hardy tropical that returns for us almost every year! The common name is misleading as this plant is not a true honeysuckle, but it does have striking, bright orange tubular flowers in clusters at the ends of stems. Leaves are light to medium green and slightly fuzzy, and the plant forms a rounded mound that can reach 3’-4’ tall and about 2’-3’ wide, although it never gets that large in Hammond. Great hummingbird attractor. Thrives in sun and heat, but prefers better drained soils. Propagates easily from cuttings. Generally root hardy in Zone 8, and reliably so in Zone 9.
5. Rostrinucula dependens – Weeping False Buddleia – LAMIACEA – What a great specimen plant for the landscape! The common name tricks us again, as it’s not a buddleia at all, even though the odd blooms might suggest otherwise. During the summer, this somewhat open shrub with narrow leaves produces intriguing, hanging blooms of white buds opening to lavender-pink flowers. The blooms get longer as the summer and fall wear on, creating a dramatic draping look. In mild winters the stems don’t fully die back in Hammond, but expect the plant to die back to the ground in central and northern parts of Louisiana. No worries, though, as it emerges the following spring from the ground. Our mature specimen in a fairly protected area of the Piney Woods garden is about 5’-6’ tall and 6’-7’ wide. It is easily propagated by cuttings in late summer and early fall after this year’s growth has hardened off a bit. Best planted in full sun but will grow in part shade. Hardy in Zones 7, 8 and 9.