Allen D. Owings | 7/26/2016 5:04:12 PM
The LSU AgCenter Louisiana Super Plants program is now five years old. With the announcement of two new varieties for spring and one for fall 2016, the program now includes 35 landscape plants that perform well in Louisiana and would be great selections for home gardens. Some of these are new varieties, and some are older varieties with a proven track record.
The LSU AgCenter and Louisiana’s nursery and landscape industry, through the Louisiana Nursery and Landscape Association, identified the need for a state-based program that uses university research to identify and promote exceptional plants. The Hammond Research Station, along with the School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, leads the program.
Each Super Plant must have at least two years of rigorous evaluations and a proven track record under north and south Louisiana growing conditions. Louisiana Super Plants must prove hardy across the state and must be easily produced and available for all nursery and landscape industry wholesalers and retailers to market and sell.
Louisiana Super Plants are selected a year or two in advance of a public announcement. The selection process includes LSU AgCenter horticulture faculty and members of the Louisiana nursery and landscape industry. The program results in home gardeners having an increased awareness of better-performing landscape plants.
Three new Louisiana Super Plants have been named for 2016 – the Evolution series salvia and Serenita Raspberry angelonia for spring, and Mrs. Schiller’s Delight viburnum for fall.
A salvia that is not necessarily new but is lesser known is the Salvia farinacea series Evolution. Both the Evolution White and the Evolution Violet are propagated from seed. In the landscape, plant these varieties in a full to mostly sun location in a well-drained landscape bed 14 inches to 16 inches apart. Container growing is also an option. Plants of the white-flowering variety grow to 10-12 inches tall while the violet-blooming variety will grow to 14 inches tall. Flowers are abundant on the tight foliage canopy from late spring through first killing frost. Pollinators love these plants. When spring planted and growing in a well-drained bed, plants can be perennial after winters of only light frosts and freezes. Removing spent flowers by deadheading will keep plants blooming more prolifically. Lower growth, blooms spring through fall and compact habits make these two varieties super.
Serenita Raspberry angelonia
Angelonia, also called summer snapdragon, has become one of the more popular summer bedding plants. These are generally considered annuals and work in full sun and dry landscapes – a common problem with angelonias is over-irrigation. The Serenita series is the smaller-growing version of the Serena variety, which was named a Louisiana Super Plant in 2011. The raspberry-blooming Serenita Raspberry was chosen because of its unique flower color. Raspberry blooms are not available in any other seeded-type angelonias. Plant angelonias in late April to early May. Serenita Raspberry is a compact grower in the landscape reaching about 12 inches to 14 inches tall compared to the 16-inch Serenas. Space plants 10 inches to 12 inches apart.
Mrs. Schiller’s Delight viburnum
A native shrub deserving of more use in Louisiana is the Mrs. Schiller’s Delight Viburnum obovatum, or Walter’s dwarf viburnum. This could be a great substitute for Indian hawthorn, dwarf yaupon, dwarf hollies and similar popular evergreen foundation shrubs. This viburnum is maintainable at 3 feet to 4 feet tall and grows to a height of 5 feet. Space plants 4 feet to 5 feet apart in full sun, part sun or part shade in a well-prepared landscape bed. Small clusters of white flowers cover the canopy in midspring for four weeks. These plants make a nice addition to woodland, filtered-shade native gardens. This viburnum is known for its landscape toughness. Prune if needed in spring after flowering is completed. Irrigation is needed only during periods when rainfall is absent for two to three weeks.
Louisiana Super Plants are “university tested and industry approved.” The three 2016 selections and all the past selections can be chosen to make great colorful warm-season and cool-season Louisiana landscapes.
Allen Owings is a professor and resident coordinator at the Hammond Research Station.
Evolution Violet salvia. Photo by Allen Owings
Mrs. Schiller’s Delight viburnum. Photo by Allen Owings
Serenita Raspberry angelonia. Photo courtesy Ball Seed