Labor Day Report 2012


Summer Survivors

East Texas Ornamental Plant Evaluations
H. Brent Pemberton, Professor
Texas A&M AgriLife Research, Texas A&M University System
Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center
P.O. Box 200, Overton, Texas 57684

The summer of 2012 seemed mild compared to 2011.  But, as the saying goes, “Everything is relative”!  There was still plenty of heat to go around.  The planting season from mid-April through May was seasonably warm, but rainfall was limited and considered dry for that time of year.  June continued warm with rainfall still limited.  By late June, the summer heat arrived and continued for the most part through the first half of August with little rain.  Temperatures moderated by late August and some cool fall nights actually arrived by the official start of the autumn season in September.  Weather details can be seen at  More information on how we perform the trials can be found at  As usual, many great looking plants showing off great landscape performance made it to Labor Day this year.

Seeing a plant that is one of the top People’s Picks ( give stellar season long performance is always a great thing.  For 2012, petunia Surfinia Patio Indigo (Suntory) was one of the best.  It was in the good company of many standard bearers of petunia performance in these trials including Tidal Wave Silver (Ball), Supertunia Vista Bubblegum (Proven Winners), Supertunia Vista Fuschia, and Supertunia Vista Silverberry.  Also in this top group were Surfinia Lavender Lace, and Supertunia Pink Charm.  Honorable Mentions include Tidal Wave Cherry, Supertunia  Sangria Charm, Supertunia Indigo Charm, Pop Rocks White (Burpee Home Garden), Shock Wave Rose Improved (PanAmerican), and Surfinia Patio Coral Pink.

The now classic Serena White (PanAmerican; Texas Superstar® in 2011 was the heaviest flowering Angelonia in 2012.  Other seed-grown entries that were strong were the more compact Serenita Purple (PanAmerican) and Serenita Lavender Pink.  Also at the top were the vegetative entries Sungelonia White (Suntory) and Sungelonia Blue.

Begonias fared much better in the sun this year than in 2011.  They survived!  The top of the pack were Baby Wing White Bronze Leaf (PanAmerican), Whopper Red Green Leaf (Ball Ingenuity), and Whopper Rose Green Leaf.  Seeing the green leaf entries do so well was great to see, but the bronze leaf types in both the Whopper and the Big (Benary) series weren’t far behind.  In the shade, Baby Wing White Bronze Leaf, Big Red Bronze Leaf Improved, Big Rose Bronze Leaf, Big Red Green Leaf, Whopper Rose Green Leaf, Monza Dark Pink (Takii), and Havana Rose (Takii) led the pack.  Monza Dark Pink, Baby Wing White, and the Big series got off to an early season start with flowering.

Coleus entries were not as plentiful this year, but performance was high.  There was really no apologizing for any of the entries, but the best in the sun were ColorBlaze Marooned (Proven Winners) and ColorBlaze Mocha Velvet.  All looked nicer in the shade, but the best in the shade were the two already mentioned plus Vino (Ball FloraPlant).

Dahlias have a tough life in Texas, but the XXL Series (Red Fox by Dummen) are one of the best.  When grown in the Demonstration Garden with morning sun, Hidalgo, Taxco, and Veracruz were nice for most of the summer.  When grown in containers in full sun, Chiapas and Paraiso stood out.  I also like the medium sized flowers on this series.

As Texas Superstars® they were dubbed ‘Baby’s Breath’ Euphorbia (  All the entries performed well.  Newcomer Star Dust White Flash (Red Fox by Dummen) went up against stalwarts such as White Manaus (Athena Brazil), Breathless White (Ball), and Diamond Frost (Proven Winners) and came out well.

Gaillardia is a crop that the breeders are continuing to make strides with.  The standouts this year were Mesa Bicolor Bright (Kieft), Arizona Red Shades (Benary), Mesa Yellow, and Arizona Sun.  Flowering on these was decent even into August which is quite a feat for this genus.  I have also found Mesa Yellow to behave as a perennial for at least one season.

I have found that growing geraniums under 30% saran shade in the field is a great way to really see which geraniums do well in this region as this simulates the way we grow them in the southern U.S. – in morning sun and as much in containers as in the ground.  And then there is the fact that the breeders have been busy and are now giving us geranium hybrids that are giving us more heat tolerance than either the zonal or ivy leaved parents have shown in the past.  The Sarita series (Red Fox by Dummen) is one of those efforts.  Sarita Pink and Sarita Wild Salmon were exceptional this year.  Not only did they have performance ratings of 9 or above in August under the shade, they had ratings of 7 in the full sun at the same rating time.  This is impressive for a geranium in Texas!  The rest of the Sarita series along with Cumbanita Deep Rose (Red Fox by Dummen) weren’t far behind.  Even the zonals Savannah Sizzle (Red Fox by Dummen) and Savannah Coral gave a very respectable show.

Gomphrena was named a Texas Superstar® plant in 2012 ( so we had them on prominent display.  As in past trials, All Around Purple (Sakata), the QIS series (Kieft), the Las Vegas series (Benary), Fireworks (PanAmerican), and the Audray series (Takaii) performed beautifully all season long.  In addition, several experimental vegetative types (Sakata) produced very nice compact mounds of color all summer and bring yet another unique habit to this still growing group of great heat tolerant plants.

Not many impatiens in the trial this year, but Dazzler Salmon Improved (PanAmerican) put in a solid summer long performance.  Several new SunPatiens (Sakata) entries also excelled with Sunpatiens Compact Electric Orange leading the pack.

As I have said before, I never met an Ipomea that I didn’t like.  The Illusion series (Proven Winners) and Sweet Caroline Bewitched (Proven Winners) performed their magic as expected.  I am quite taken by the Illusion Garnet Lace which is a great red foliage type which holds its color well even in the heat.

Lantana is such a good heat tolerant plant that expectations are high for this genus.  There were many outstanding entries this year, but the standouts were Lucky Flame Improved (Ball FloraPlant), Luscious Lemonade (Proven Winners), and Luscious Citrus Blend.  These entries flowered steadily all summer and are great additions to both of these excellent series.

Blushing Princess (Proven Winners) joined Snow Princess as an outstanding heat tolerant alyssum.  Also joining the group was the Stream series (Danziger).  Lavender Stream was the best of that strong performing group.  This is another genus that the breeders continue to make strides in.  Keep up the good work!

Napier Grass Princess Caroline (University of Georgia) was named a Texas Superstar® for 2013 and was again a top performer.  Tifton 8, also known as Vertigo (Proven Winners), also did well.  The other experimental also put in excellent performance and we hope to see at least one of the tall ones on the market at some point.  Tifton 114 and Tifton 125 are both nice, but Tifton 114 has exhibited better hardiness in our statewide trials.

Ornamental peppers are always fun and the new Cubana series (Takii) were standouts this year.  They have a compact habit with nice sized fruit that are colorful and abundant.

Phloxy Lady Purple Sky (Red Fox by Dummen), Phloxy Lady Hot Pink, and Intensia Blueberry (Proven Winners) put on solid shows for 2012.  These phlox are really great plants once they are established.  In fact, they stayed in flower through the heat of summer until the nights began to cool in September.

Portulaca put in solid performances during the summer, but began to flag by mid August.  Outstanding were the Cupcake series (Red Fox by Dummen) and Pazzaz Salmon Glow (Danziger).  Not far behind were several colors in the Sun Dance series (Sakata) and some other colors in the Pazzaz series.

Salvia Summer Jewel Pink (Takii) joined Summer Jewel Red as an outstanding salvia for our climate.  They flower well all summer and have a nice compact form that works in the ground and in containers.

Scaevola breeders are also busy and making nice improvements.  The best for 2012 were Surdiva Light Blue (Suntory) and Scala Blue (Red Fox by Dummen).  Look for a bigger trial in 2013.

We are pretty tough on Verbena down here.  Despite the heat, the Superbena series (Proven Winners) continues to do well.  Superbena Coral Red Improved and Superbena Royale Iced Cherry showed their stuff again.  More top performers were Temari Cherry Red (Suntory), Tapien Salmon (Suntory), and Empress White (Red Fox by Dummen) which I think is the best white on the market.

Since the introduction of Cora series (Syngenta Flowers – Goldsmith) vinca, this crop has made a reappearance in our landscapes.  The series continues to expand and perform top notch.  The new Cora Red is a great addition to the series as are the new Cora Cascades which can be used as ground covers or in baskets.  Jams ‘N Jellies Blackberry (PanAmerican) is a new introduction that performed well and had a color that attracted a lot of attention.

Summer was hard on the zinnias this year, but Uptown White Wall and Uptown Sunstreak (Burpee Home Garden) hung in there as the new kids on the block.  As in the past, Profusion Yellow (Sakata) was also a strong performer.  The myrlandica types continue to improve and I am happy to see that breeding activity in this area is still going strong.

In the Miscellaneous category, alternanthera Little Ruby (Athena Brazil) put in a stellar performance as the best newcomer to the group.  Other perfect 10s were return performances by alternanthera Brazilian Red Hots (Athena Brazil), and Hibiscus Mahogany Splendor (Ball).  There were some other great crops that were also outstanding.  Evolvulus Blue My Mind (Proven Winners) with larger flowers is a great improvement over a plant that has been in the trade for many years.  Mecardonia GoldDust (Proven Winners) is from a genus that looks like a great new addition to our southern landscape palette.  Salvia Greg Grant is a cross Greg made between Henry Duelberg ( and a S. farinacea called Cedar Hill State Park.  It is a good perennial also.  Pentas Northern Lights Lavendar (Benary) is a strong performer from the past.  Look for a lot more pentas in 2013.  Scoparia Ilumina Lemon Mist Improved (Suntory) put in a strong performance.  I love the yellow flowers of this new representative of a genus that has done well in past trials but this is the first one to have the yellow flowers.

Finding good container plants for Texas is also a tall order.  I talked about the XXL dahlias above.  Other crops that performed well in full sun included the calibrachoa MiniFamous Double Rose Chai (Selecta).  This was one of the best calibrachoas I have ever grown.  The Petchoas (Sakata) also did very well.  These are interesting crosses between petunia and calibrachoa.  The celosia Intenz (Ball) was an interesting newcomer on the block.  It didn’t flower as much in midsummer as in the early summer, but was a showstopper in the fall.  Sanvitalia Sunvy Super Gold (Red Fox by Dummen) also did well through most of the season.  In partial sun, the lobelias Hot Springs Sky Blue (Ball FloraPlant) and Hot Waterblue (Red Fox by Dummen) did surprisingly well – Go breeders!  In the shade, impatiens Center Stage (Burpee Home Garden) was exactly that and lasted well into the fall.  The reiger begonias Rhine Dragone Champagne and Sunset (Red Fox by Dummen) were just stunning until August when they started to fade in the heat.

Just when you think you have seen it all, the breeders show us new and improved plants for a region that can challenge landscape plants to the max.  Keep up the good work and keep them coming!

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