Labor Day Report 2010

Summer Survivors
East Texas Ornamental Plant Evaluations

H. Brent Pemberton, Professor
Texas AgriLife Research, Texas A&M University System
Download complete Trial Results Labor Day Report 2010 (PDF, 1 MB)

The time has come to report on what survived through Labor Day 2010, my favorite time of the year to look at the Summer Trials to see what has not only survived, but has thrived in the heat of our humid subtropical climate. A lot of entries look great at our Field Day in June, but don’t make it to the dog days of late summer. Weather wise, this was a really tough summer for us. We had mild conditions during planting in late April and early May, but late May turned out to be very warm. June was hot until late in the month when we started a warm, wet period that stretched into early July. Late July took us back to the frying pan with August being very hot and dry. Though we didn’t have a lot of record high temperatures, the length of the heat was pretty brutal. Weather details can be seen at . More information on how we perform the trials can be found at .

Napier Grass was a big part of the evaluations this year. Princess Caroline (University of Georgia) and Vertigo (Proven Winners) were as nice as Princess (University of Georgia), but with less leaf spot and grasshopper damage. Princess Molly had the smallest stature, a very useful trait for this group, but had more grasshopper damage. When planted in the Demonstration Garden instead of the field, the lack of grasshopper pressure really allowed it to shine. The experimentals were all quite nice with heights ranging from about 3 to 8 feet. I think that this group of plants has unlimited potential for landscapes here. We will continue testing them and have left them in the ground to look at hardiness. A hardy purple fountain grass without flowers would be a great thing for landscapes in this part of the country.

Begonias were interesting and very nice this year. In the shade, Emperor Pink (Sakata) and Monza Blush (Takii) started early and ended strong for an outstanding season. The Big series (Benary), the Cocktail series (Benary), and several of the Emperor series (Sakata) were a little slower to come into full flower, but exhibited strong performance through the rest of the season. In the sun, the story was a bit different. For many years, Stara Pink (Floranova) and Stara White (Floranova) have been the only begonias standing in the full sun trial and this year was no exception. Every replication of these two stalwarts did well in full sun. The Big series (Benary) hung in there until giving up in August. A begonia has to have this kind of vigor in order to survive the summer in full sun here.
Coleus are great in the sun and shade. In the shade, Henna (Ball FloraPlant) and ColorBlaze Royal Glissade (Proven Winners) started strong and held up all season. Rebel Rouser (Proven Winners) showed excellent heat tolerance, especially for a yellow-green leaf type. In the sun, Rebel Rouser (Proven Winners) really showed its stuff. A little bit of flowering, but really held up well in the sun despite a leaf color that usually fades under these conditions.

The white Euphorbias did well as a group in the heat this year. White Manaus (GroLink) was the most vigorous of the group and was outstanding. The Breathless series (Ball FloraPlant) and Hip Hop (GroLink) were a little bit slower coming into full flower, but exhibited strong performance. Silver Fog (Dummen) was smaller than the rest and would probably be best used in containers. This group will be promoted as Baby’s Breath Euphorbias in our Texas Superstar® program ( ) in spring 2011.
This was a tough summer for geraniums! Most were lost by late August. However, Caliente Coral (Syngenta Flowers) was still hanging tough when the last data was taken. I am impressed with how well the interspecifics have performed in our climate. Honorable mentions for beating the heat are Caliente Deep Red (Syngenta Flowers), Savannah Pink (Red Fox by Dummen), Savannah Pink Sizzle (Red Fox by Dummen), and Survivor Dark Red (Red Fox by Dummen).

What else can I say about Gomphrena except that this was their summer to shine. All entries were outstanding performers in the heat – All Around Purple (Sakata), Audray series (Takaii), Fireworks (PanAmerican), and Las Vegas series (Benary). I am planning a trial with as many varieties as possible in 2011 and the species is being considered for a Texas Superstar® promotion in 2012.
The heat was not kind to New Guinea Impatiens. Magnum Lavender (Red Fox by Dummen) gave the strongest performance followed by Magnum Blue (Red Fox by Dummen) and Magnum Salmon (Red Fox by Dummen). Standard Impatiens suffered as well. However, Super Elfin XP Pink (PanAmerican) was the standout in this group. Super Elfin Pink (PanAmerican) was a standout for many years so the tradition continues.

Is there a bad Ipomea?! I don’t think so. I will say that the finer cut, yellow leaved varieties such as Illusion Emerald Lace (Proven Winners) suffer from some minor burn in full sun. They actually benefit from some shade, though performance in sun is still excellent. I was pleasantly surprised to see quite a few flowers show up on Sweet Caroline Purple (Proven Winners) by the end of the season. A nice benefit from a great plant!

Lantana, another great heat loving plant, performed well this year as usual. Bandana White (Syngenta Flowers) provided a stellar show with a very nice mounding habit. Lucky Pure Gold (Ball FloraPlant) wasn’t far behind, but not as compact as Lucky Pot of Gold (Ball FloraPlant) which has been a favorite for a number of years. And Dallas Red (Dummen) is a Texas landscape classic.
The Lobularia trial this year was most interesting. Snow Princess (Proven Winners) once again made an outstanding showing. Even this plant flagged just a bit in August, but bounced back beautifully with the first breath of cool air in September. I don’t think of this species as heat tolerant (except for Snow Princess), but most varieties held up pretty well until late July. And Wonderland Copper (Benary), Wonderland Deep Purple (Benary), and Clear Crystal Lavender Shade (PanAmerican) were still going strong at the end of the trial in late September. A promise for better heat tolerance in the future?

Marigolds can struggle in the heat, but the trial this year was populated with some of the best past performers. Discovery Yellow (Benary) came out on top, but was followed closely by Taishan Gold (PanAmerican) and Taishan Orange (PanAmerican). All but a couple of entries survived well and gave at least average performance in the hot late summer period.

There were some fun items in the miscellaneous crop category this year. In the shade, the Rio series mandevillas (Syngenta Flowers) did surprisingly well and performed better than the plants in the sun. The Reiger type begonias from Dummen (Carneval, Dragone, Nadine, and Red Baron) were gorgeous, though they succumbed to the heat by August. In the sun, the melampodium Casino Light Yellow (Takii) was the best melampodium I have ever trialed. Also, the phlox Intensia Blueberry (Proven Winners) joined this series as a top performer and measured up to the others in the series that have shone in past trials. The ornamental peppers Purple Flash (PanAmerican) and Black Pearl (PanAmerican) worked their usual magic. Other outstanding performers were the pennisetum Red Riding Hood (Proven Winners) and the portulaca Duet Rose N’ Yellow (Sakata) which never slowed down. The scaevola Scala Blue (Red Fox by Dummen) put in a solid performance. And the salvia Raider Azure (Texas Tech University) also produced sky blue flowers all summer long. The angelonia AngelMist Spreading Purple Improved (Ball FloraPlant) had a flowering slump in June, but slipped into high gear in late summer. It compared well to the angelonia Serena Mix (PanAmerican) which has done well for several years and will be promoted as a Texas Superstar® in spring 2011. The juncus Blue Arrows (PanAmerican) put in a nice show as a foliage plant. The basil Garden Leader Lemon Experimental (Grimes) was very nice with a beautiful fragrance during the entire summer. The basil Aristotle (Vegetalis) was a beautiful ball of fine foliage, but succumbed to the heat in late summer. The Hibiscus Luau series (Proven Winners) had few flowers in the early season, but came on strong by the end of the season as they became established and temperatures warmed. The alcea Spring Celebrities series (Takii) were quite nice in June, flowering from a spring sowing without cold, but went down soon after that. They bring a nice old fashioned flair to the garden and could be followed by tropicals in a summer rotation.

Tidal Wave Silver (PanAmerican) has been a standard for trailing petunias for many years, but several were in its company this year. They were Supertunia Lavender Skies (Proven Winners), Supertunia Vista Bubblegum (Proven Winners), Supertunia Vista Fuschia (Proven Winners), and Supertunia Vista Silverberry (Proven Winners). This group exhibited good flowering even into late summer and are the evidence of why this type of petunia is now the best type of petunia for summer gardens in this region. Honorable
Mentions go to Tidal Wave Cherry (PanAmerican), Wave Purple Improved (PanAmerican), Sweetunia Soft Pink Morning (Red Fox by Dummen; an excellent performance for this color class), Cadenza Rose Red (Takii), and Picnic White (Syngenta Flowers; great for its numerous small white flowers).

Denver Daisy (Benary) and Tiger Eye Gold (Goldsmith) put in another year or excellent performance for this species. They exhibited strong flowering through late July before succumbing to the heat. The breeders are headed in the right direction with this species.
Verbena is always a favorite. Superbena Coral Red (Proven Winners), Superbena Royal Chambray (Proven Winners), and Empress Soft Pink (Dummen) turned in outstanding performance.Most verbena were out or flower by the end of September, but these were still flowering well in late August. Honorable Mentions go to Aztec Blue Velvet (Ball FloraPlant) and Empress Strawberry (Red Fox by Dummen).

With low disease pressure and high heat, the vinca were loving it. Flowering was strong all summer long. Cobra Deep Rose (Floranova), Cobra True Red (Floranova), Cora Apricot (Goldsmith), Cora Deep Lavender (Goldsmith), Cora White (Goldsmith), Garden Leader Hotlik Orchid Eye (Grimes), Titan Apricot (PanAmerican), and Titan Icy Pink (PanAmerican) all had performance ratings at 9 or above in late September. Titan Dark Red (PanAmerican) was a beautiful red.

I have come to expect a lot from the Profusion (Sakata) and Zahara (PanAmerican) zinnia series. Flowering was a bit slow to start, but Profusion Yellow (Sakata) and Zahara Fire (PanAmerican) were the strongest at the end of September. The Profusion mixes were nice, but were dominated by yellow by the end of the summer. These two series are continuing to improve and I look forward to future developments. I see them being used more and more in area landscapes so that I think the future is bright for this species.
The Container trials had some nice surprises this year. In the full sun, Mecardonia GoldDust (Proven Winners) was outstanding all season long giving us a new species that beats the heat. The Angelonia AngelMist Spreading Purple Improved (Ball FloraPlant) was outstanding and flowered better than its counterpart in the field trial. Coleus Red Head (Ball FloraPlant) was stellar once again. Calibrachoa is a crop that finds it tough going in the heat. Cabaret Mango Tango (Ball FloraPlant), Aloha Apricot (Dummen), and Superbells Lavender (Proven Winners) took the heat pretty well for an Honorable Mention. Osteospermum usually don’t flower very well in the heat of the summer, but Summertime Red Velvet (Red Fox by Dummen) was the best of the group this year and even had quite a bit of flowering in July. The Confetti Mixes (Red Fox by Dummen) started out with a bang, but declined early. I think part of the problem was that the multi-species plugs were started in 4 inch pots prior to planting in the large containers. Direct planting would allow them to become more established prior to the onset of hot weather. I hope to try these again as I think that multi-species plugs, whether vegetative or from seed, are going to be a great thing for growers and consumers. In partial shade, the Lobelia Hot Arctic Blue (Dummen) was outstanding. I haven’t had even one of these newer heat tolerant types go all the way through the summer not only surviving, but flowering well. Lucia Dark Blue and Lavender Blush (Proven Winners) also did pretty well. I have big hopes for the future breeding of this crop! The Ivy type geraniums survived here better than the field, though the heat was still tough on them by late summer. Atlantic Red Velvet (Red Fox by Dummen), Grandiosa Purple Picotee (Red Fox by Dummen; these did better here than in the field), and Schone von Rheinberg Dark Red and Coral (Red Fox by Dummen) held up the best. In the shade, all of the entries started out in good shape, but went down quickly in the heat.

All in all, a tough season, but full of some great plants. The future looks very bright when seeing the great improvements that continue to come from our industry for this part of the country!

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