Durantas shine in late-season landscapes

Richard Bogren, Owings, Allen D.  |  9/26/2015 12:22:07 AM

The yellow and green variegated foliage of Gold Edge duranta makes an attractive landscape addition. (Photo by Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter)

Cuban Gold duranta with a background of Clio cleome at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station. (Photo by Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter)

News Release Distributed 09/25/15

By Allen Owings

LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – Golden dewdrops is a common name for durantas, also known as sky flowers.

A great plant for foliage character and occasional fall berries, duranta is native to the tropical regions of the Caribbean and Central and South America. They are recommended as perennials in portions of south Louisiana in USDA hardiness zones 9-11 and make great annuals elsewhere in the state.

Durantas become more noticeable in late summer and fall landscapes as plants get larger and the foliage becomes even more attractive under bright sunny days.

Also called pigeon berry, old duranta varieties can be larger growers to 6-8 feet tall and taller when winter damage doesn’t occur. The habit is an arching growth pattern with bluish flowers. It produces golden fruit that can feed our feathered friends.

Many newer duranta varieties are now on the market.

One dwarf variety is Cuban Gold. It’s low-growing, reaching only 16-20 inches tall in the landscape by fall. Plants that overwinter can become 3-4 feet tall. Because chartreuse foliage color is its main characteristic, Cuban Gold can be used as a substitute for chartreuse-foliaged ornamental sweet potatoes in landscape plantings.

Cuban Gold is great for combination containers as a filler plant. You can also prune, shape, hedge this dwarf plant – some people even refer to this plant as “tropical boxwood.”

The variety Gold Edge produces few if any seed pods or flowers and grows to a height of 5 feet each year. Other varieties available in Louisiana include Lemon Drop, Sapphire Showers, Sweet Memories, Variegated, White (aka Alba), Purple and Silver Lining (an improved variegated).

We have three new varieties in the LSU AgCenter trial gardens in Hammond – Green Gold, Geisha Girl and Snow Flurry. We’re also evaluating and trialing natural mutations developed from duranta varieties for possible release in the future.

For the best landscape effect, duranta should be planted in full sun or at least very light shade. Amend the landscape soil with organic matter to increase drainage, especially in tight, clay soils. A slow-release fertilizer application at planting, which is best in the spring, would typically last the plants through late summer and into fall.

Duranta is very tolerant of pruning, so don’t be afraid to give your plants a trim every once in a while to keep them neat. Treat duranta as you would a butterfly bush, and prune the aerial stems back to about 4 inches long each spring before the foliage emerges.

Find a place in your container or landscape for this tropical native and enjoy the beauty it brings to your garden. Many gardeners do not appreciate some of the great-looking plants that really show off their colors in fall. Consider some durantas for a container planting this fall or definitely include them on your list of tropicals to add to you landscape next spring.

You can see more about work being done in landscape horticulture by visiting the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station website. Also, like us on Facebook. You can find an abundance of landscape information for both home gardeners and industry professionals at both sites.

Rick Bogren

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