AgCenter names top bedding plants

Jolt dianthus. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

Jolt dianthus. Photo courtesy of LSU AgCenter.

By Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – Since the debut of a landscape horticulture research and extension program at the LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station eight years ago, we have continued to expand the research gardens. One of the largest efforts each year is evaluating new annual warm-season bedding plants and perennial flowers in the sun garden and shade garden.

Most gardeners realize many new plants are introduced to the marketplace each year. Some perform well in our south Louisiana heat and humidity, and some do not. Efforts at the Hammond trial gardens help nursery growers, commercial landscapers, retail garden centers, Master Gardeners and home gardeners by providing information on the best-performing of these new plants. Some evaluated plants may eventually become Louisiana Super Plants.

The top 10 new bedding plant varieties for 2016 that were proven best landscape trials in 2015 include the Valiant series vinca (periwinkle), Double Yellow Zahara zinnia, BabyWing Red and BabyWing Bicolor begonias, the lime and black foliage varieties in the SolarPower series of ornamental sweet potatoes, Easy Wave Silver petunia, Cannova Lemon canna, the Flame Thrower series of coleus and Jolt Pink dianthus.

The Valiants are the newest group of disease-resistant vincas. Already on the market are the seed-propagated Cora and the vegetatively propagated Nirvana. Initial flower colors in the new Valiants are apricot, burgundy, lilac, orchid, punch and pure white.

A new color in the Zahara zinnias for 2016 is Double Yellow. These zinnias are smaller-growing, more compact and, along with the Profusion varieties, the most sold in garden centers around the state. The yellow addition along with the double flower form expands the palette of varieties offered in this great group.

The BabyWing series of begonias are LSU AgCenter Louisiana Super Plants. The original BabyWing begonias include the BabyWing White and BabyWing Pink varieties. Now you can get BabyWing Bronze with White (bronze foliage with white blooms) and two new additions – Bicolor and Red. The uniqueness of BabyWing begonias in Louisiana is their ability to hold up in full sun spring through fall. Quality ratings in the landscape remain high through mid-October in south Louisiana.

SolarPower is a new series of ornamental sweet potatoes from BallFlora Plant. The SolarPower series has finer-textured foliage, less-tuberous roots and a more contained growth habit. The black-foliaged variety (SolarPower Black) keeps the black foliage later in the year. Some of the other blackish- and purplish-foliaged ornamental sweet potatoes fade and have some green tinge to the foliage by fall. SolarPower Lime has chartreuse foliage and has the same growth habit and foliage characteristics. Plants are 10-12 inches tall and 24-36 inches wide. Ornamental sweet potatoes make great additions as “spiller” plants in combination containers.

A unique flower color in petunias, silver is available in the widely popular Tidal Wave Silver variety. New for 2016 is the addition of a silver flower variety to the Easy Wave petunias. Easy Wave Silver was a great performer during “petunia time” (February to early June) this year.

The newest addition to the 2015-released Cannova series of canna is lemon. These cannas are smaller in the garden (48 inches) and work well in greenhouse production. They also are easy to ship and hold up well in retail garden center settings.

The Flame Thrower series of coleus includes three varieties – Chipotle, Chili Pepper and Spiced Curry. The diversity of coleuses continues to increases. These varieties would work in sun and shade settings and are late to bloom.

A new dianthus for 2016 is the Jolt series. This plant is smaller than the popular Amazon dianthus and has some improved heat tolerant. The pink-flower variety in the series was a top performer in 2015 trials.

Some of the honorable mention winners in “new for 2016” variety trials were Campfire, Marquee Special Effects and Premium Sun Flip Side coleuses; a new white-flowering addition to the Divine series New Guinea impatiens; Serenita Sky Blue angelonia; Jolt Cherry dianthus; two other double-flower forms of Zahara zinnia (salmon rose and cherry improved); Black and Bloom salvia (a blacker calyx and bluer petals than Black and Blue salvia) and SolarPower Red ornamental sweet potato.

The AgCenter works with many national companies in evaluations and trials on new and existing ornamental plant varieties. We also are participating in the National Plant Trials Database, which is a new system of online reporting available for trial gardens around the country. This allows comparing performance across regions and provides a way for industry professionals to have access to all national trial garden data.

 

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