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Louisiana Super Plants – 5 years old with more coming

News Release Distributed 11/21/14

By Allen Owings

LSU AgCenter horticulturist

HAMMOND, La. – It’s hard to believe, but the LSU AgCenter Louisiana Super Plants program is now 5 years old.

The first plants in the program were named in fall 2010, and with this fall’s announcement of two new selections – rabbiteye blueberries and Mesa gaillardia – the program now has identified 28 great landscape plants as winners for home gardeners in Louisiana.

The goal of this program has been to identify and promote exceptional plants that perform well in Louisiana. Louisiana’s summer heat and humidity are tough on plants, and most plants recommended for other parts of the United States will not always perform well here.

Some Super Plants 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. Similar programs, such as Texas Superstars and Mississippi Medallions, are ongoing in other states.

Funding for this project was initially provided through the Louisiana Department of Agriculture and Forestry with funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant Program. The Hammond Research Station, partnering with the AgCenter School of Plant, Environmental and Soil Sciences, is the lead agency for the endeavor.

The Louisiana Super Plants program has three parts. The first identifies outstanding plants. The second makes sure the plants are available at retail nurseries and garden centers. The third promotes the plants to Louisiana gardeners.

Each Super Plant must have at least two years of rigorous evaluations, have a proven track record under north and south Louisiana growing conditions and prove hardy across the state. The selections 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 involving LSU AgCenter horticulture faculty and members of the Louisiana nursery and landscape industry makes the program “university tested and industry approved.” The program results in home gardeners having an increased awareness of better-performing landscape plants.

Louisiana Master Gardeners are among the most enthusiastic supporters of the Super Plant program. In addition, garden center owners say increased sales result when they pay attention to marketing and prominently display Louisiana Super Plants.

Bedding plants are the most popular plants in the program. Cool-season flowers named Louisiana Super Plants include Amazon dianthus, Swan columbine, Diamonds Blue delphinium, Redbor kale, Sorbet violas and Camelot foxglove. Warm-season flowers are BabyWing begonia, Bandana lantana, Butterfly pentas, Little Ruby alternanthera (Joseph’s coat), Senorita Rosalita cleome, Serena angelonia, Luna hibiscus (rose mallow) and Kauai torenia (wishbone flower).

Mesa gaillardia is a short-lived perennial in Louisiana that does well in the cool and warm seasons.

Super Plant shrubs include Aphrodite althea (rose of Sharon), Belinda’s Dream rose, Conversation Piece azalea, Drift rose, Frostproof gardenia, Penny Mac hydrangea, ShiShi Gashira camellia and Flutterby Petite Tutti Fruitti Pink buddleia (butterfly bush).

A dual-purpose shrub for the edible and ornamental landscape is all varieties of rabbiteye blueberries.

Louisiana Super Plant trees are Shoal Creek vitex, Southern sugar maple, willow oak and evergreen sweetbay magnolia.

The Louisiana Super Plants program has proved to be a marketing plan that works. Louisiana Super Plants for spring and fall will be coming in 2015.

Fall is a great time to add cool-season flowers, trees and shrubs to your landscape. It would be great knowing you are adding AgCenter-recommended plants and planting an award-winning landscape at the same time.

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

Last Updated: 11/21/2014 2:55:29 PM

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