Richard Bogren, Kirk-Ballard, Heather
LSU AgCenter Horticulturist
(05/17/19) What hits harder than Serena Williams on a hot summer day? Well, that’s easy. It’s Serena series angelonia.
If you need a reliable, long-lasting bloomer for your garden this summer that tolerates heat, humidity and drought with long-lasting, colorful blooms and fragrant foliage, then look no further. From love to game point, it wins No. 1 in the summer bedding plants game.
Serena angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia, Serena series) is an herbaceous perennial that is grown as a warm-season bedding plant here in Louisiana. This gorgeous perennial is often referred to as summer snapdragon because its elegant flowers resemble an open-mouthed dragon similar to our cool-season annual snapdragons. The flowers of angelonia are much smaller and more delicate-looking and give the landscape a nice touch of color.
Serena angelonia grows as a bushy, spreading plant with narrow, dark green foliage and spikes of flowers that come in colors of mauve, pink, purple, blue and white — a large palette of pastels. They are vibrant and prolific bloomers from May through October and thrive in the summer heat and humidity. Serena angelonia is a gorgeous addition to the landscape and can be used as a border planting, a ground cover or as a plant for containers. It is also fantastic for attracting butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. And the leaves are fragrant to boot. Some people liken the aroma to apples.
A relatively new addition to the garden and landscape, angelonias made their major debut in the 1990s with the first cultivar Hilo Princess. Over the years, breeders have teased out some of the lesser-desired qualities because the plants tended to be leggy and loose. More new varieties such as the Serena series and Serenita series have expanded the color range. These plants are more compact, with a spreading habit and strong flower spikes. What’s exciting to growers is that the Serena and Serenita series can both be seed grown. In the past, angelonia had only been able to be grown from cuttings.
These plants will provide beautiful flowers all spring, summer and fall if planted in a site that has well-drained soil and full sun to partial shade in USDA hardiness zones 8 to 11. They can grow up to 10 to 14 inches tall and 10 to 14 inches wide. Plant spacing should be 12 to 15 inches. But for a massed effect, spacing should be closer to 8 to 12 inches. They make a stunning display as a massed planting and are sure to catch anyone’s eye.
Plant angelonias in late spring through summer. Be sure to water newly placed transplants regularly to get them established well in the landscape, especially if planting in the extreme heat of summer. Once established, plantings require less water — another major highlight of this plant. Allow the soil to dry out between waterings. You also want to provide adequate drainage to help prevent problems with root rot and other fungal diseases. Deadheading is not required, but periodic trimming is recommended to control the size of the plants and to encourage healthy new growth.
No special fertility program is needed. Just use a slow-release fertilizer incorporated into the soil at planting time to ensure uniform growth. It’s a good idea to supplement the granular fertilizer with liquid feed, as needed, to keep plants looking their best for their extended blooming period.
No major pests or diseases have been identified for Serena angelonia in Louisiana; however, watch for aphids, spider mites, whitefly and fungal diseases such as powdery mildew and root rot. It’s a real winner in the easy maintenance category.
Some of the traditional angelonia varieties for Louisiana landscapes are include Serena purple, Serena rose, Serena white, Serena blue and Serena waterfall mixture. All are well-suited to most areas of the state.
Serena angelonia produces spikes of flowers that resemble snapdragons. LSU AgCenter file photo by Allen Owings
Serena angelonia come in a variety of flower colors, including mauve, pink, purple, blue and white. LSU AgCenter file photo