Low-Moisture, Heat-Tolerant Plants

'Bloomtastic! Purple Splendor' buddleia from Hines

Pretty isn’t enough for perennials and shrubs anymore. They also need to be drought tolerant and heat resistant and produce abundant, fragrant flowers over a long bloom time. Oh, and it’d be great if they attracted butterflies, bees or other beneficial wildlife, too.

It’s a tall order, but perennial and shrub breeders are rising to the challenge with new plants that meet the heightened expectations of consumers.

Jimmy Turner, senior director of gardens for the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Society, trials hundreds of new varieties every year and is one of the first to see industry trends. He says heat tolerance and low water are the big requirements now, and there’s also been a huge amount of breeding lately around scented plants, as well as plants that attract wildlife.

“[Consumers want to know that] this is a food source for such-and-such butterfly, or this is a host for such-and-such beneficial insect,” Turner says. “Ten years ago nobody would have ever mentioned ‘this plant attracts bees,’ because you didn’t want anyone to think it did. Now, all of a sudden, having bees in your backyard is a badge of honor.”

Many breeders are working with some tried and true older favorites such as hollyhock and hibiscus.

“They’re taking an old staple that we all know we can’t kill and saying, ‘Let’s see what we can do to improve it,’” Turner says.

He cites the hibiscus Summerific series from Walters Gardens as one example.

“It flowers from the bottom up – not just at the top of the stems,” he says. “There is a flower at every node.”

Turner likes ‘Berrylicious,’ with its huge 8- to 9-inch diameter mauve lavender flowers with a deep red eye. He also likes ‘Jazzberry Jam,’ with bright magenta, slightly ruffled flowers.

Another old favorite Turner likes “that we’re all sort of gaga over right now” is chaenomeles ‘Double Take,’ a double-flowered thornless cultivar bred by Spring Meadow Nursery. He is also enthusiastic about two new oakleaf hydrangeas, ‘Munchkin’ and ‘Ruby Slippers,’ out of the Tennessee State University Otis Floyd Nursery Crop Research Center.

“For us, oakleaf hydrangeas have always been 8 to 9 feet tall. These are in the 3 to 4 foot range – tight, compact. The flowers start out white, then turn into this beautiful rosy, reddish pink,” Turner says.

The Most Popular Perennials

Asked if there is one genus that stands out above all others in popularity, Turner answers without hesitation.

“In the perennial world right now it’s echinaceas,” he says. “I think we have more than 500 varieties of echinaceas right now.”

Some of his favorites that are doing well in trials are ‘Cheyenne Spirit’ (PanAmerican Seed), a multicolor blend of orange, yellow and red, and Terra Nova’s new Secret series.

“They’ve got a new yellow called ‘Leilani,’ which has huge yellow, hand-sized – and I’ve got big hands – flowers on it,” he says. “‘Southern Belle’ from Plants Nouveau is another stunner. [It’s] absolutely gorgeous. It’s kind of a bicolor pink – just sexy.”

Hellebores are right behind echinaceas in new breeding.

“There’s a few hundred of them coming out of Germany from a company named Heuger,” Turner says. “Skagit [Gardens] is the American grower and tester. They’ve got some wonderful new stuff there.”

One new series, the Gold Collection, features more bronzy foliage with silver marbling, bigger flowers and more heat tolerance and vigor. Another standout (though not in the Gold Collection) is ‘Penny’s Pink.’

“It’s a beautiful, deep rosy purple-pink with a cup-shaped flower. It makes jillions of them,” Turner says.

Dianthus is also getting a lot of attention from breeders, and Turner says one that has performed especially well in his trials is dianthus ‘Early Bird’ in the Scent series from PlantHaven.

“It’s compact, heavy blooming and has great flower production. They made it through the hottest summer on record this year in Texas, so I think they could grow anywhere. They’re super hardy too,” he says.

Buddleias & Bloomtastic

Joe Gray, senior vice president of Hines Nurseries, has two brand-new buddleias that also meet consumer demand for low-moisture, heat-tolerant, fragrant, wildlife-attracting plants. Buddleia ‘Lavender Veil’ is only 18 to 24 inches tall, making it a versatile plant even for those with small gardens. And unlike most buddleias, it flowers all over the shrub, not just at the top.

“It’s extremely fragrant and just

keeps blooming,” Gray says. “Even though it’s a woody shrub, it is acting more like a perennial.”

‘Lavender Veil’ may have another use, too. “When I’ve showed the plants to people coming into Hines, half of them have said, ‘That would be a good hanging basket.’ It’s in their thought process already, so I’m sure consumers would think that too,” he says.

Buddleia ‘Purple Splendor’ is slightly larger at 3 feet but it is still quite compact, Gray says.

“It’s full to the base and has really deep purple flowers. It blooms all summer, with lots of fragrance. It’s a manageable plant you can use in a foundation planting.”

Hines also has new introductions in its Bloomtastic program, which includes only plants with fantastic, long-lasting blooms and ease of care.

“We as an industry make it complicated for the consumer,” Gray says. “We really need to take that out and make it as fun an experience as possible. Bloomtastic is fun, simple and these plants are going to perform.”

One of Gray’s favorites is crinum ‘Purple Dream,’ which combines black-purple foliage with a striking pink flower.

“It’s a fantastic plant,” he says, adding that it looks like a cordyline, but with a beautiful flower. “In addition to that, it’ll grow in almost standing water – it will take dry soil too, so it’s a very tolerant plant – and it’s very difficult to kill. It makes a great patio plant in a big container. We’re psyched about that.”

Bougainvillea ‘Bambino’ and its even smaller counterpart ‘Babybino’ are also new to the Bloomtastic line. The Bambinos reach 4 to 5 feet tall. They have a compact habit and come in eight different colors. The Babybinos are even smaller.

“They are perfect for the deck or patio,” Gray says. “[And] the Babybinos can be used in mixed planter and windowboxes – they’re so diminutive and small.”

What’s New At Walters?

Walters Gardens also has some unique new perennials, some of which are being introduced via its new partnership with Proven Winners.

Hemerocallis ‘Primal Scream’ is one such perennial. It’s not just another daylily. Winner of the 2003 Stout Medal (the highest honor a daylily can receive), it has huge 7 ½- to 8 ½-inch diameter tangerine-orange flowers with a green throat.

In rudbeckias, a new introduction threatens to turn ‘Goldsturm’s long dominance of the rudbeckia market on its head. Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Little Goldstar’ is more compact and just over 12 inches tall.

“The flowers are closely spaced and held just above the foliage,” says Susan Martin, director of marketing communications for Walters Gardens. “It looks fantastic in containers at retail and in the garden. Since this variety is produced by tissue culture, the plants will be much more uniform than the seed-grown ‘Goldsturm,’ resulting in fewer losses for growers.”

Ligularia ‘Bottle Rocket’ also features a compact habit – one not usually seen in ligularias.

“This sport of ‘Little Rocket’ was discovered right here at Walters Gardens,” Martin says. “Unlike older ligularias, this one is a perfectly proportioned plant with its mustard yellow flowers held just at the top of the foliage.”

About six inches shorter than its parent, ‘Bottle Rocket’ is also more robust, with thicker leaves that stand up to the heat.

Martin is also excited about alstromeria ‘Inca Ice.’

“We’ve watched this plant growing in our shade trials for a few years and have been impressed every year with its vigor and capacity to produce loads of flowers over a long period,” she says.

The flowers have alternating petals of apricot pink and creamy yellow with brown speckling, and she has seen 20 or more on one stem.

“Although the plants in the Inca Collection were bred specifically for

garden use rather than the floral industry, the stems are still plenty long enough for cutting,” Martin says.

Leave a Reply

One comment on “Low-Moisture, Heat-Tolerant Plants

More From Varieties...
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Market

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More

February 4, 2016

Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triumphs

Growers from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina describer their experiences trialing everyone’s favorite holiday season flora.

Read More
Rhododendron ‘Dandy Man’ (Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs)

February 2, 2016

Spring Meadow Nursery Partnering With Proven Winners Europe To Introduce New Flowering Shrubs

The expansion creates a cohesive brand for what is now a global market, immediately introducing more than 24 shrubs to the European market, with the potential for 125 or more in the future.

Read More
Latest Stories
Dr Allan Armitage

February 8, 2016

Why Succulents Have Become The Hippest Plants On The Ma…

Allan Armitage says succulents used to be relegated to the far end of the display bench, but their adaptability, decorative value, and low maintenance requirements have now made them a staple.

Read More

February 4, 2016

Poinsettia Growers Discuss Their Recent Trials And Triu…

Growers from Pennsylvania, Illinois, and North Carolina describer their experiences trialing everyone’s favorite holiday season flora.

Read More
Rhododendron ‘Dandy Man’ (Proven Winners ColorChoice Shrubs)

February 2, 2016

Spring Meadow Nursery Partnering With Proven Winners Eu…

The expansion creates a cohesive brand for what is now a global market, immediately introducing more than 24 shrubs to the European market, with the potential for 125 or more in the future.

Read More

February 1, 2016

12 New Poinsettias For Holiday Growing

Poinsettias are still a consumer favorite during the holidays for home décor and gift giving. For greenhouse growers looking to get a jumpstart on purchasing young plants for the 2016 poinsettia growing season, there is no shortage of great varieties to choose from. Here are 12 new varieties to keep in mind for holiday product offerings.

Read More

January 27, 2016

Costa Farms’ Season Premier Provides Sneak Peek A…

Costa Farms presented the 2016 Season Premier at its 2-acre Trial Gardens in Miami, FL, in the third week of January. The event showcases varieties from breeders of all sizes to growers and major retail buyers, providing a look at what genetics are coming to the market and how they’ll perform in retail settings and in the landscape, when consumers bring them home. The mild winter climate in South Florida allows Costa Farms’ Research and Development Department to simulate the spring growing conditions of various regions in the country. Because each group of visitors to Costa Farms’ Trial Gardens wants to see what the new plants look like in the environments that matter to them, Season Premier offers several areas within the Trial Gardens that highlight different ways to look at the wealth of new varieties. The New Product Showcase offers a way for retailers to see how plants will […]

Read More

January 26, 2016

Beekenkamp And Danziger Partner To Distribute Poinsetti…

Danziger is continuing to expand its portfolio of products to the U.S. market with the addition of poinsettia cuttings of Beekenkamp’s varieties.

Read More

January 24, 2016

Positive Consumer Experiences Help Advance The Orchid C…

HGTV HOME Plant Collection plans to expand its Fresh Style product line through a partnership with Green Circle Growers (Oberlin, Ohio), which will supply decorative orchids, tropical plants, and indoor garden combinations. Greenhouse Grower asked Maxwell Sherer about Green Circle's orchid program, the latest trends he’s seeing, and where he thinks orchid growing is headed in the future.

Read More
Sansevieria in Corner of home

January 21, 2016

Tropical And Indoor Foliage Plants Emerge As A Lifestyl…

Consumers are incorporating houseplants into their everyday lives, which is driving the trends toward smaller-size plants and unique products that appeal to a younger demographic.

Read More
Pollinator-Conference-NC State

January 20, 2016

How To Promote Pollinator-Friendly Plants This Spring

Following last year’s launch of the National Pollinator Garden Network, groups like the National Garden Bureau and others remind growers that offering pollinator-friendly plants is a great way to keep up with consumer demand.

Read More
Caladium Painted Frog Series (Plants Nouveau)

January 17, 2016

16 New Foliage Plants To Round Out The Garden

Every garden needs a good mix of flowering and foliage plants for an attention-grabbing show of thrillers, fillers, and spillers. These new foliage varieties will not only act as a lush backdrop for colorful blooms, they can also stand on their own with their noteworthy textures and colors.

Read More
California Coast

January 13, 2016

Mark Your Calendars For The 2016 California Spring Tri…

It’s time to think about registering for the 2016 California Spring Trials. You won’t want to miss any stops along the way, so use this quick reference to help with planning for your trip.

Read More
David Roberts Bailey Nuseries Feature Image

January 12, 2016

Bailey Nurseries’ David Roberts Says New, Novel Varieti…

Roberts was recently hired by Bailey Nurseries to be the General Manager and Breeder for Plant Introductions, Inc., which Bailey acquired last year.

Read More
Kelly Norris - feature

January 11, 2016

Kelly Norris: Questioning The Purpose Of New Plants

Norris asks if the time has come to rethink new plant introductions, or how we market them to consumers.

Read More
Weeks Roses Miss Congeniality

January 11, 2016

Weeks Roses Introduces New Lineup Of Roses For 2016

Weeks breeds and grows a wide range of rose bushes, all of which are field tested for many factors.

Read More
CAST2015_Floranova_Vegetalis_Ageratum Cloud Nine Blue

January 8, 2016

Floranova Opening New Chile-Based Research Station, For…

Floranova has announced it is building a new research station in Chile that will open in mid-2016. As a result, the company will not participate in the 2016 California Spring Trials, but says it will be back in 2017.

Read More
Streptocarpus 'Yellow Blue Eye' (Green Fuse Botanicals)

January 5, 2016

15 Flowering Foliage And Tropical Plants For The Home A…

Tropical and foliage plants are the ultimate lifestyle plants because they enrich the environment and provide mood-boosting benefits. Take into account some of these new introductions for a crop mix that helps your customers realize the true benefits of plants.

Read More
BallSeed-WebTrackToGo-app Feature Image

January 5, 2016

Ball Seed Launches WebTrack To Go App For Mobile Phones…

The app is available for free in the Google Play and iTunes app stores, and serves as a companion to Ball’s full WebTrack business management system.

Read More
Terra Nova Garden Decorating Guide

December 31, 2015

Terra Nova Nurseries Releases New Garden Decorating Gui…

The guide’s wheel-shaped design groups new plants by color and was inspired by the Pantone Matching System color guide.

Read More
[gravityform id="35" title="false" description="false"]