Labor Day Report 2013


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 2013 seemed more like a typical summer if there is such a thing in Texas. One thing we can count on is plenty of hot weather and we were not disappointed. The planting season from mid-April through May was seasonably warm with moderate rainfall and humidity. June turned out to be unseasonably hot and dry with little rain. July brought slightly cooler temperatures and some rain, but the heat and lack of rain came back in August and continued into most of 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 2013, evolvulus Blue My Mind (Proven Winners) was one of the best. It garnered the most flags at Field Day and was equally popular with women and men. The true blue flower color looked cool all season long, even in the shade.

Alternanthera was trialed in both sun and shade this year. Little Ruby (Athena Brazil; recently named a Texas Superstar® for 2015) and Brazilian Red Hots (Athena Brazil) gave another year of outstanding performance, regardless of sun exposure. Golden Threads (Athena Brazil) was also nice, but only in the shade. This proved to be true of many of the entries for this species.

A couple of the vegetative angelonias had a good showing this year. AngelMist Spreading Dark Purple (Ball FloraPlant) showed us a very nice spreading habit with good solid flowering. Sungelonia Deep Pink (Suntory) also put on an excellent show.

Begonia Big rose with Bronze Leaf (Benary) put on an exceptional show in full sun lasting late into October. As usual, shade was kinder to begonia performance.

More euphorbias are entering the market which is great for Texas gardeners. As 2011 Texas Superstars®, they were dubbed ‘Baby’s Breath’ Euphorbia ( ). Star Dust White Flash (Red Fox) put on a season long show of exceptionally heavy flowering followed closely by the classic Silver Fog (Red Fox).

The geranium series Calliope and Caliente (Syngenta Flowers), which are now marketed also as the Boldly and Timeless series (Proven Winners), continued to outperform the pack. Also, the Sarita series (Red Fox) proved exceptional once again. The newcomer So Lovely! (HGTV Home Plant Collection) put in a strong showing along with Fantasia Strawberry Sizzle (Ball FloraPlant), which also did well in full sun, and Fantasia Violet (Ball FloraPlant).

The gomphrena series Pin Ball (Sakata) put in a strong show with a nice mounding, compact habit. All the gomphrena were ravaged by army worms very late in the season.

Sunpatiens Compact Hot Coral, Compact Red, and Trailing Pink Flash (Sakata) put on a strong show, despite conditions that resulted in the loss of most of the New Guinea impatiens by August. Still a great plant for shade.

The large Lantana Experimentals Chapel Hill Yellow and Chapel Hill Pink Huff (Red Fox) were exceptional in flowering season long, but the classics Dallas Red and New Gold were right behind them. Of the smaller plant types, Little Lucky Pot of Gold (a classic) and Red (Ball FloraPlant) and Bandana Lemon Zest (soon to be a classic) and Peach (Syngenta Flowers) were exceptional. These were closely followed by Bandana Cherry Sunrise (Syngenta) and Pink Bird (Red Fox). What a great plant for the heat!

Members of the Stream series (Danziger), especially White and Purple put on a great show. White Stream has been designated a Texas Superstar® for 2015. Blushing Princess, Frosty Knight, and White Knight joined Snow Princess (Proven Winners) in a series that is also a showstopper for summer flowering.

In the Miscellaneous category, impomea FloraMia Nero (Red Fox) exhibited lovely purple foliage as would be expected, but also sported flowers as well. A great addition to this species! Hope to see more in the future. Pennisetum Graceful Grasses Vertigo (Proven Winners) showed us the purple foliage which is now classic in the grass world. Finally a rose impressed me with Sunrosa Red and SunrosaYellow (Suntory) flowering all summer with very little disease on glossy green foliage. The group is rounded out with torenia Catolina Midnight Blue, Grape O-Licious, and Pink (Proven Winners), Guara Experimental White Blush (Kieft), and Nierembergia Summer Splash White (Suntory).

I have to admit that I have trouble growing pentas! We had a large number of entries this year. The standouts were Ruby Red (Athena Brazil), Galaxy Comet (D.S. Cole), Summerbird Comet (Kiwi Flora), Northern Lights Lavender (Benary), Summerbird Polaris (Kiwi Flora), and Butterfly White (PanAmerican Seed).

Ornamental Peppers continue to please! The classic Purple Flash (PanAmerican Seed; Texas Superstar® 2014) led the pack, but Basket of Fire (Floranova) and Chenzo (Floranova) were also exceptional.

The now classic Texas Superstar® trailing petunia Tidal Wave Silver (PanAmerican Seed) led the pack in season long performance this year. Not far behind were the also classic Supertunia Vista Bubblegum (Proven Winners), and Supertunias Pink, Orchid, and Indigo Charms (Proven Winners). The Charms have small flowers, but smother the plants with color.

All the purslane entries performed quite well in our heat. The best was Cupcake Peachy (Red Fox).

Lots of scaevola entries this year. Fairy Pink and Fairy White 14 (Selecta) led the pack. The Surdiva series (Suntory; Blue, Light Blue, and White) performed well. Other excellent performers were TopPot White (Westhoff), TopPot Pink, Bombay White (Syngenta Flowers), Brilliant Blue-violet (Westhoff), Crystal White (Westhoff), Experimental White 9-11 (Westhoff), and Saphira/Fancy Violet (Westhoff).

Verbena continues to be a hot topic with a great number of entries. Tapien Salmon (Suntory), Superbena Royal Whitecap (Proven Winners), and Empress Burgundy Charme (Red Fox) put in excellent season long performance. Empress Purple (Red Fox) and Lanai Denim Blue (Syngenta Flowers) also performed well.

The vinca Cora Cascades (Goldsmith Seeds) proved a big success and have a great spreading habit that is useful in many different ways. Of the upright types, the Titans Blush, Burgundy Improved, Icy Pink, and Rose Halo (PanAmerican Seed) put on a great show with the Rose Halo shimmering in the heat. Another great new color was Cora Red (Goldsmith Seeds) with Burgundy and Lavender shades also great performing additions to this classic Texas Superstar® series. Last but not least was Vitesse Lavender Morn (Floranova) which also put in a strong performance.

Zinnia Zahara Sunburst (PanAmerican Seed) proved another strong addition to this Texas Superstar® 2014 series.

There was a wealth of material trialed in containers this year. In partial sun, Evolvulus Blue My Mind (Proven Winners) did as well as in the ground. The classic Texas Superstar ® mandevilla Rio series also gave a great season long performance. In full sun, Chrysocephalum Silver Leaf Yellow (Suntory) did very nicely for the entire season. Calibrachoa Superbells Pomegranate Punch (Proven Winners) was exceptional for that species. Many combos were trialed. In general, they all looked really great early in the season. However, Kwik Trial Night in Pompeii and Syngenta Flowers Plum-tastic held up later in the season also.

Once again, the breeders have come through with plant improvements that can blow us away with performance in the heat of our region of the country. As always, keep up the good work and keep them coming!

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