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.