The Louisiana Super Plants program is an educational and marketing campaign that highlights tough and beautiful plants that perform well in Louisiana landscapes.
Plants must have at least two years of rigorous university evaluations and a proven track record under north and south Louisiana growing conditions. Super Plants must prove hardy across the state and be easily produced and available for all nursery wholesalers and retailers to market and sale, according to Regina Bracy, resident coordinator of the Hammond Research Station and researcher with the Super Plants program.
“The selections are based on experiences of our researchers as well as the nursery industry across Louisiana,” Bracy said.
Bracy said the landscape industry has embraced the program with nursery owners saying it has increased sales.
“They tell us if we name it as a Super Plant, they can sell it,” she said.
Master Gardeners also are on board with the program.
“They are a driving force,” Bracy said. “They help spread the word, and they are establishing Super Plant gardens across the state.”
The LSU AgCenter’s first Super Plants release was in the fall of 2010. The latest release brings the total number of Super Plants to 14.
The Senorita Rosalita cleome prefers full sun and will grow 2- to 4-feet tall and about 2-feet wide. It flowers from late spring through frost and has excellent tolerance to heat and drought.
“This is an excellent plant to add height and drama to the landscape,” said Dan Gill, LSU AgCenter horticulturist.
Unlike other cleomes, Senorita Rosalita will not self-seed, doesn’t get bare knees and doesn’t have thorns. Flowers are smaller than the classic cleome, but Senorita Rosalita flowers all over the plant, not just at the top. The plant is attractive to butterflies and hummingbirds.
The BabyWing begonia also will bloom from late spring until a frost and is tolerant to heat and stress. It prefers part sun to part shade.
With smaller leaves than the popular Dragon Wing begonia, the BabyWing begonia sports masses of pink or white flowers and grows about a foot tall by a foot wide. BabyWing begonia starts blooming earlier than Dragon Wing. Its bright, glossy leaves also add to its appeal.
“It is a vigorous plant with an upright mounding growth habit,” Gill said, “it can add season-long color in beds or containers.”
The third Super Plant is the Penny Mac hydrangea. Hydrangeas are popular in Louisiana, and this variety performs well across the state.
Like all hydrangeas, this summer-flowering deciduous shrub likes part shade. It will grow 4- to 6-feet tall and 3- to 4-feet wide while producing large round clusters of light blue, lavender or pink flowers, depending on soil type. They make great cut or dried flowers.
Penny Mac hydrangea’s major bloom is in May, but gardeners can expect flowers through fall on this repeat bloomer.
“This plant blooms consistently, even if the first buds are killed by a late frost,” Gill said.
“People know growing Louisiana Super Plants helps take some of the guess work out for them,” Bracy said.
Look for the spring selections at nurseries near the signs with the LSU AgCenter Super Plants logo. To see a list of nurseries participating the in the program and to view the flowers with more information on how to grow, go to www.lsuagcenter.com/super plants.