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Heat and humidity is the name of the game and the main challenge for growing plants in the Southeast. Though the spring was very dry, with little rainfall in April through June, temperatures were above average in those months. In July and August, the region experienced more rainfall and higher temperatures then average.
Each year around the United States, hundreds of new plant varieties are tested. Here are the top five varieties that trial garden leaders recommend for our specific region for 2012:
Ornamental Corn “Field of Dreams” is an easy-to-grow annual. It can be sowed in pots or directly in the ground. It sports unique, colorful, highly, variegated foliage. An added bonus is the colorful, ornamental cobs that can be saved for fall displays. These plants thrive in our heat and humidity. Plants can reach 4- to 5-feet tall and add color and structure to large combination pots and accents in the landscape.
Salvia “Summer Red Jewel” is a shorter, more compact, weather-resistant Salvia coccinea. This plant constantly bloomed from mid-spring through the fall. The flowers on this variety are a darker red compared to other red salvias.
This densely branching plant remains a tidy 20-inches tall even at full maturity. The bright red flower spikes are covered with half-inch blooms making it perfect for the bird lover’s garden where the bright red color acts as a magnet for hummingbirds. As an added bonus, goldfinches swarm the plant for seeds.
Even the leaves add beauty with their finer-textured, dark-green color. Expect long season performance and superior holding ability in both wind and rain. This annual is ideal for full sun containers, mixed beds and borders where uniformity is desired.
Begonia “Whopper Rose Bronze Leaf” has massive sized leaves that are topped with beautiful flowers. This series of begonia was by far the best performer in the N.C. state trails. This plant has an impressive adaptability to full sun, reflected heat and inconsistent soil moisture. Landscape performance was excellent. The red blooms contrast nicely with the bronze leaf.
Cleome “Sparkler Blush” is a great plant especially when planted in a mass. Cleome thrives in sandy, well-drained soils and hot weather. Sow the seeds after the danger of frost or grow in containers. Use cleome in the backs of borders, as bedding plants and as cut flowers. This colorful, sun-loving annual has fragrant foliage and colorful, highly scented flowers in mixed shades of pinks, purple, and white. The habit is very upright. The airy flowers are produced at the ends of hairy stalks in loose, globular, un-branched groups in the summer.
Each flower has long stamens giving it a spider-like appearance. Sparkler Blush is a dwarf selection with white and blush pink flowers.
Lantana “Luscious Citrus Blend” is a vivid lantana commanding attention all season long. It is a vigorous grower to 42-inches tall with a mounding growth habit. The prolific hot red, orange and yellow blooms pop against the deep green foliage.
SUSAN BROWN is a horticulture agent with the Brunswick County Extension Service. Call 253-2610 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.