The LSU AgCenter has named the top performing petunias, violas and pansies in its evaluation of 200 cool-season cultivars tested between September, 2006 and May, 2007 at the Burden Center in Baton Rouge.
Top petunia performers include the Plush series, Easy Wave Salmon, Tidal Wave Silver and Tidal Wave Hot Pink, Misty Lilac Wave and Pink Wave. All are seed-propagated and are the property of PanAmerican Seed Company.
Top violas (also called Johnny jump ups) performers include Rocky Lavender Blush and Rocky Skyscape. Rocky violas are available from S&G Flowers.
One of the top-performing pansies in the trial was FamaX Golden Yellow. (Pansies are a type of viola.) FamaX are available from Benary.
Over the past five years, the AgCenter has regularly conducted herbaceous plant landscape trials at the ornamental and turfgrass research facility at Burden, according to LSU AgCenter horticulturist Dr. Allen Owings.
Warm-season trials are conducted on approximately 500-600 cultivars between March and November, and cool-season trials are conducted on approximately 200 cultivars between September and May.
The Plush series of petunias is the newest group of the seed-propagated spreading petunias. They are available to wholesale growers from S&G Flowers. Colors include blue, purple, lilac pearl, lavender, salmon, white, deep red and deep pink. The entire series has excellent bloom coverage across the plant canopy. Individual plants spread 2 to 2 1/2 feet and are uniform in growth habit.
Petunias currently on the market include six cultivars of Wave, nine cultivars of Easy Wave and four cultivars of Tidal Wave. These cultivars were the most uniform across the planting and had the least petal blight and other disease problems.
Wave petunias are promoted as low-growing and spreading, Easy Wave petunias are marketed as mounding and spreading, and Tidal Wave petunias are marketed as taller and hedge-like.
Petunias can be grown as cool- or warm-season annuals in Louisiana. For cool-season, plant in September through October and expect the best landscape performance between mid-February and mid- to late May. For warm-season planting, establish plants in February and expect peak landscape performance in April and May. A warm-season planting that makes it through the summer will flower and perform well in September through November.
Owings says violas and pansies were extensively evaluated in the cool-season bedding plant landscape studies. Improvements have been made in pansies and violas along with some hybridization efforts between these two species in the last few years.
For related gardening and landscape information, click on the Lawn and Garden link at the LSU AgCenter Web site, www.lsuagcenter.com. Also, contact the county agent in your local parish LSU AgCenter office.