News Release Distributed 05/25/12By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Ornamental sweet potatoes are a popular warm-season annual for adding foliage colors to the summer landscape. The original varieties include plants with leaves that are chartreuse-lime green (Marguerite), blackish purple (Blackie, Black Beauty, Ace of Spades) and tricolored (Pink Frost). New ornamental sweet potato varieties recently introduced have various leaf shapes and growth habits in addition to new foliage colors. These sweet potatoes have been selected for shorter stem lengths between the leaves and reduced root size. They are more compact than most other ornamental sweet potato varieties. Some of the new sweet potatoes are more conducive to trellising and for being “spiller” or “filler” plants in containers when compared with older varieties. Some of these new varieties may produce significant flowering in the landscape during summer through fall, while others seldom flower. The Sweet Caroline series of ornamental sweet potatoes are a newer group. This series has varieties with green-yellow, red, light green, bronze and purple foliage. The Sweet Caroline Sweetheart series (with heart-shaped leaves) is available in light green, red and purple, while the stand-alone Bewitched variety has maple-leaf-shaped, purplish-black foliage. The best foliage colors come when plants are in full sun. They will have less colorful foliage in a shaded or partially shaded location. An ornamental sweet potato series introduced in 2009 is Sidekick from Syngenta Flowers. This series is available in black, black-heart and lime colors. The lime-colored variety is lighter in color than the chartreuse-lime green foliage of Marguerite, and the growth habit is low-growing and less spreading. The new Illusion series from Proven Winners is probably the best of the new introductions. They have thread-leaf foliage and are smaller-growing and much less vigorous than any others on the market. Illusion colors are available as Emerald Lace, Midnight Lace and Garnet Lace. Ornamental sweet potatoes in the landscape are easy to plant and care for. They do best when planted later in the spring and seldom need irrigation or fertilization. Lightly prune during the season to control growth on the most vigorous varieties. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 05/1812By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Gardenias are blooming in Louisiana landscapes now. Known as cape jasmine to some Southern gardeners, gardenias are one of the most widely planted landscape shrubs in Louisiana. The LSU AgCenter has recommended several species and varieties for landscape use, and they continue to be very popular among home gardeners. When you select gardenia varieties, look for the better performers. The best currently available now is the variety Frostproof. It was a designated a Louisiana Super Plant in 2011. Other good choices include the new Jubilation variety in the Southern Living plant program along with Mystery and August Beauty, which are older varieties. And one more to consider is the daisy gardenia. Although popular, gardenias regularly are plagued with problems. This is especially true with dwarf gardenias, but other varieties have their difficulties, too. A planting group may do very well, with no plants lost the first year. Or a planting may do poorly, and all plants are lost in the first year. Sometimes a few plants in a grouping may die each year, so after two to four years, no living plants remain. We have a few guidelines to consider that can improve gardenia landscape performance. Soil pH is important for gardenias and other plants. Gardenias belong to the “acid-loving” group of ornamental plants. This means they prefer low soil pH. The recommended soil pH for gardenias is 5.0-5.5. This is similar to what azaleas, camellias and blueberries also require. Plants may do fine at a soil pH in the upper 5s to low 6s, but adverse nutrient availability and root growth problems occur when soil pH climbs above 6.5. We all need to know the soil pH in our landscape beds. Adjust soil pH by lowering with sulfur or raising with dolomitic lime. Always follow recommendations of a soil test, which you can get for a fee from the LSU AgCenter. Contact your AgCenter parish office or go to the soil lab page. As with many other shrubs, roses and flowers, improving internal drainage and building raised beds are usually necessary when planting gardenias in Louisiana. Our heavy rainfall in short periods of time saturates landscape bed soil and will lead to root rot issues. You can lessen this problem by making a raised bed 6-8 inches tall prior to planting. This helps prevent root rots that may occur if irrigation is not properly managed and/or if beds aren’t properly prepared and provided with adequate drainage. When you plant, don’t plant gardenias too deep. Watch your planting depth and be careful about piling mulch around the base of the stems, which simulates planting too deep. Plant gardenias slightly higher than how the plants were growing in the original containers. Allow for soil settling. Be sure to “water in” the plants during the backfill process. Avoid over-mulching. Mulch with pine straw to a depth of 2-3 inches. A slightly stressed gardenia will decline rapidly when over-watered. At the same time, we need to make sure plants are not under-watered. Uniformity in soil moisture is the key to success with gardenias, so monitor soil moisture closely between rains. Once-a-week irrigation should be sufficient. Make sure water distribution is uniform. Water quality also can play a role in gardenia performance in the landscape. Irrigate slowly, deeply and infrequently rather than quickly, shallowly and often. Once root rot occurs, plants can usually not overcome the problem, and homeowners have limited fungicide options for control. Gardenias need a moderate amount of nitrogen fertilizer but also are harmed when nitrogen is applied excessively. Apply a recommended slow-release fertilizer shortly after spring bloom. This should handle nitrogen needs for that growing season. Gardenias also are frequently fertilized with foliar or soil applications of iron, such as Ironite. This basically is offsetting a slightly higher-than-recommended pH that is inhibiting iron uptake from the soil. Gardenias are not difficult plants to grow. We just need to follow these recommendations to improve their landscape performance.Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 05/11/12By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Many of us may not realize it, but the last 20 years have been some of the most exciting times in the history of home landscaping. It would be impossible to list all the new ornamental plants – from trees to shrubs to perennials to annual flowers – that have been recently released. We now have new flower colors in plants where specific flower colors had not been found, blooms at times during the year when blooms normally did not occur, improved disease resistance, improved plant adaptability to different growing regions and so much more. Some of the new herbaceous flowering plants from the past three to five years making an impression in Louisiana include such plants as the Serena angelonias, new Lo and Behold butterfly bushes (Buddleia), the Celebration series purple fountain grasses and Lanai series verbenas. Some “new” butterfly bushes have been available from Proven Winners for a couple years now and are beginning to see considerable industry acceptance. Blue Chip is a variety that is well known. It is in the Lo and Behold group that also includes Purple Haze and others. Blue Chip has bluish-purple flowers on a mounding plant that grows to a height of 24-30 inches. Dark green foliage is characteristic of the plant. It, as all butterfly bushes, is best planted in full sun with well-drained soil. Ice Chip and Lilac Chip are new colors in this group. All of these new dwarfer butterfly bushes are excellent bloomers and are reliably perennial (with foliage retention through winter) in south Louisiana. You can also try Miss Molly and Miss Ruby. Angelonias are new to many gardeners. They were virtually unknown even as recently as 10 years ago. Now, many angelonias are on the scene. In Louisiana we plant the Serena series – it is a Louisiana Super Plants. This outstanding summer bedding plant can be relied upon for dependable garden performance though the hottest summer weather. Five colors in the Serena series blend together beautifully – Serena Purple, Serena Lavender, Serena Lavender Pink, Serena White and the new Serena Blue. Plants are compact, growing 12 to 14 inches tall and about as wide. Masses of flower spikes cover the plants from late spring to frost. Plant them through May for best results in sunny beds. Minimum irrigation and fertilization are needed. The Celebration series Pennisetums are great improvements over what we used to call purple fountain grass. Purple fountain grass was used abundantly in landscapes in the 1980s and fell out of popularity. Now, the plant is back with new and improved varieties. Fireworks, with red foliage, was introduced two years ago and is being widely used and accepted in the industry. Sky Rocket was introduced in 2011 – it has green and white variegated foliage. The new addition for 2012 that is still very limited in availability is Cherry Sparkler, with purple and white variegated foliage. These ornamental grasses are best treated as annuals, although they will overwinter in warmer areas of south Louisiana. The plants prefer full sun and can be planted in groups of three to five to add height (42-48 inches by fall) to flower beds. The Lanai series verbenas from Syngenta Flowers include flower colors not found in many other verbena groups. New colors are introduced each year. These plants do best when purchased at the garden centers from February through April and then in fall. They have good cold hardiness down into the mid- to lower 20s and can be perennial when properly cared for. They also make great container plants. New colors in Lanai verbenas that will be coming soon include Candy Cane, Vintage Rose and Lime Green. Lime Green is recommended for mixed containers. Lanai verbena continues to gain market share in the southeastern United States. Many other plants that are not new have been introduced in the past 10-15 years and have been responsible for changing what we grow. One example is Profusion zinnias. Others are the Lucky and Bandana lantanas. Although we are not at petunia planting time now, the Supertunias and Wave petunias have changed the marketplace for these plants. Other relatively new plants include Snow Princess lobularia, SunPatiens, PowWow purple coneflower and many more. Even more great plants are coming, and we will continue to see great new flowering plants each spring and fall. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.
News Release Distributed 05/04/12By LSU AgCenter Horticulturists Dan Gill, Kyle Huffstickler and Allen Owings Daylilies are one of the most popular flowering plants for late spring and early summer landscapes in Louisiana. They have reached peak bloom about three weeks early this spring due to our lack of significant cold weather in February and March. Gardeners always seem to want daylily information, and many new flower forms and colors are now available. Serious gardeners know daylily by its scientific name of Hemerocallis –Greek for “beauty” and “day.” As the name implies, daylily flowers open for just one day. The best daylilies for today’s landscapes, however, make many buds and can bloom for upwards of three months. Daylilies are low-maintenance plants in the landscape. Planted in full to partial sun, daylilies prefer a well-drained bed but can tolerate poorer soil conditions. At planting, make a slightly raised bed for daylilies by incorporating organic matter. Adjust the soil pH so that it is slightly acid – 6.0-6.5 – and fertilize in early spring and again in early summer, if needed, to promote plant vigor. You can find many flower colors– white and blue are about the only exceptions. Flower shapes also vary, and multiple colors are common on a single bloom. Daylilies reach a mature height of 1-5 feet depending on the variety. Flower size can range from small flowers no more than 2 inches across to large flowers 8 inches across. Daylily varieties are classified based on flower color, plant size and other factors. One important classification now commonly used is hardiness type – dormant, semi-evergreen or evergreen. Dormant daylilies offer little if any resistance to cold temperatures, and foliage will disappear in winter until new growth emerges from the soil the following spring. Semi-evergreen varieties will have foliage that dies down briefly in early winter, and new growth begin slowly until more rapid re-growth starts in early spring. Evergreen daylilies are common now in commercial landscaping. These varieties maintain foliage through winter in the warmer climate of the Gulf South. One valuable benefit of daylilies is their ability to multiply. Avid daylily grower Dale Westmoreland, owner of WestFarms Nursery in Folsom, says most daylily plantings peak in flowering performance about four years after the initial planting. Daylily plants multiply from year to year and can be divided at almost any time of year to produce new plants. A clump of two to three plants may not flower the first year after division (although they generally will), but a clump of five to 10 plants will flower well. It’s hard to provide a recommended list of daylily varieties. Many are available, and most varieties recommended for Louisiana can be found at local retail garden centers. When you look for daylilies, select for resistance to daylily rust. Visit LaHouse in Baton Rouge to see sustainable landscape practices in action. The home and landscape resource center is near the intersection of Burbank Drive and Nicholson Drive (Louisiana Highway 30) in Baton Rouge, across the street from the LSU baseball stadium. For more information, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/lahouse or www.lsuagcenter.com/lyn.