In terms of fast-growing foliage plants it's hard to beat Sweet Potato Vine, or Ipomoea. This year we had a great new series in the K-State trials: SolarPower. These plants stayed compact (the plots looked like they had been edged with a string trimmer, but it wasn't necessary!) and were very well-branched. The deeply lobed leaves add a lot of texture to the landscape or container planting.
The Sweet Caroline series has been on the Prairie Star list for a long time, and the new color 'Sweetheart Lime' performs at an appropriately high level. The leaves are a bright green with a very subtle red around the margin that looks sort of like someone outlined it with a pen.
There are many great Sweet Potato colors to choose from on the Prairie Star list, with different growth habits ranging from sprawling to compact. The vining Sweet Caroline 'Sweetheart Red' has young leaves that are green and age to a dark red color. Very striking!
A neat development is the 'FloraMia Nero' cultivar of Sweet Potato that has flowers in addition to the attractive foliage. These plants aren't as vigorous and spreading as others, but they still have a nice presence and work well in combination plantings.
Continuing on with some highlights from the 2015 K-State flower trials...
Petunias are always one of the largest groups of entries in the trials, and there are so many different colors and types out there. Last year one of the best performers was 'Supertunia Morning Glory Charm,' and it is having another stellar year in the container trials. We love the vibrant blue color and it is always packed with blooms. The Supertunia Charms have a more compact habit and smaller blooms, making them great choices for where you want a mound of color. Look for this cultivar on the 2016 Prairie Star list!
Check out how the Supertunia Charms look in the landscape! The new 'Violet Star Charm' has incredible vigor and is impressive with its striped flower display.
A neat new sunset color in the Supertunia line is 'Honey.' This plant is not only uniquely beautiful but also tough. It withstood wet conditions in the field better than many other cultivars.
Another petunia that has garnered interest is 'Sweetunia Johnny Flame.' The velvety flowers look stunning paired with dark-leaved plants like sweet potatoes and grasses.
A vigorous spreading petunia with some serious flower power is 'Tidal Wave Red Velour.' This cultivar is also a 2015 All-America Selections Winner, so it has proved itself in trials throughout North America.
We love the 'Sundenia' Dipladenia series. This is a bush-type cultivar instead of vining, so no trellis is required. It still sends out lots of tendrils and makes a very full pot display. The 'White' is a prolific bloomer and the 'Red' has a beautiful dark color and slightly large flowers (though the blooms did fade at bit in the peak of the summer heat).
For adding color to shady areas it's hard to beat Impatiens. The new 'Lollipop' series has performed very well and were some of the brightest pots in the shade container trials.
The semi-double begonia 'Evi Pink' was also impressive in the shade containers. One of the most prolific bloomers, it was not as affected as some of the other cultivars by the temperature swings from cool to hot.
Check in next week for an update on new Sweet Potato cultivars and more!
Looking out over the flower trial beds now, it's hard to believe we have faced major challenges this year like flooding and soil cracking and invasions from rabbits and weeds. Plants are amazing in their resilience, and much of what has survived has gone on to look fantastic in this August heat!
If you haven't been able to make it to one of the Field Days at the horticulture research center, fear not! We will feature some of the highlights from this year over the next few posts. Some cultivars are new, others have been on the market for a while - but it's always nice to have a reminder of what does well!
There are some excellent Coleus in the shade containers this year. ColorBlaze 'Apple Brandy' provides some interest with bright bi-color leaves. The smaller leaves along the whole stem fill in any gaps, making a really attractive display. The ColorBlaze series is on the Prairie Star list and it looks like this cultivar will be a great addition.
The Main Street series of Coleus has also been very impressive in the shade containers. These plants are very well branched with nice growth habits - the pots looked full without being lanky. They're also very slow to bloom, which is usually a desirable characteristic for a plant that is more focused on the foliage and not the flower.
We'll step away from the shade and see some things that like it hot. Rudbeckia (Black-Eyed Susan) is a good choice for Kansas, and 'Denver Daisy' has had another great performance this year. Hard to beat that eye-catching bloom!
People in this area of Kansas love their Blue Salvia, or Salvia farinacea. One of the best in the trial this year is 'SallyFun Sky Blue.' It's got more flower stalks than other cultivars, and the bright color stands out in the landscape.
For a different look, the Salvia farinacea 'Playin the Blues' offers lush foliage on a bushier plant. The blooms are not as plentiful, but the stalks are longer and display a rich blue color. Both of these are very nice options for landscape plantings and pollinators love them!
Speaking of pollinators, here's a cool new plants - Asclepias 'Monarch Promise.' It's an annual milkweed that butterflies love, plus it provides some very unique variegated foliage. The leaves have a pinkish tint to them, making them quite beautiful. This is a great plant for the gardener who has it all and is looking for something a little new - and wants to provide some pollinator habitat in the process!
The Sedum 'Lemon Coral' is another cultivar that has been on the Prairie Star list for years, but it's nice to be reminded of it's awesomeness! It withstood all the different weather that was thrown at it without ever looking disheveled. The succulent lime-green foliage brightens up small spaces and containers, and mixes well with other species.
Stay tuned for more picks next week!
We run the annual and perennial flower trials for Kansas State University