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Newer Flowers Add To Home Gardens
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Two relatively new flowering plants are attracting attention across Mississippi. They are Husker Red penstemon and angelonia.
Husker Red penstemon was the Perennial Plant of the Year a couple of years ago. On a recent trip to Verona, I saw it in a Mississippi State University test garden, and it looked awesome!
Penstemon digitalis Husker Red was honored by the Perennial Plant Association for its long-season, ornamental effect, adaptability to most areas of North America and ease of production.
Commonly known as beard tongue, Penstemon is a large native genus found over much of the United States and Canada, especially in drier locations. It contains a wealth of flower colors and sizes, plant heights and growth habits.
Husker Red has white flowers and red foliage. It is a versatile garden perennial and is valuable as a specimen or cut flower.
When plants are well established, Husker Red's height averages about 30 inches, with as many as 50 white flowers on each of the 20 or more open, airy flower stalks. It has a rich bronze-red foliage that provides striking contrast with its masses of white flowers, and is quite showy.
Husker Red can be propagated by division or from cuttings. Basal or shoot tip cuttings taken from new growth before flowering will root within 15 days. In the garden, it prefers slightly acidic, well-drained soils, especially soils that are well drained during the winter. Plants thrive in full sun to light shade. Husker Red can be massed at the back of the perennial border or used as a specimen plant.
If you are a perennial plant lover, you will want to try Husker Red penstemon.
Another plant in the MSU and home horticulturists gardens is one I told you about last year called the Angelonia. It may be the most exciting new plant to come out in years.
Last year, angelonia showed up in the market surprising most of us because we knew nothing about it. It didn't take too long for it to get sold out, either.
Angelonia is kin to the snapdragon yet has a tropical nature. It grows 24 to 30 inches tall and produces flowers in abundance on long spikes.
Plants sold last year were the Hilo Princess and Tiger Princess. Hilo was a bluish purple and Tiger Princess had a white stripe. They bloomed all summer and fall with maybe an occasional rest. All of mine and those planted in the median in downtown Raymond, Miss., returned from last winter. Of course, it was a mild winter.
Other varieties this year are Pandiana, which is a pink with a mauve center, Whitiana, which is white, and Mandiana, which resembles Hilo Princess. There is also a Blue Angel which resembles Hilo Princess.
MSU has them planted in the Mississippi Medallion trials across the state. They are so beautiful I have people pulling up in my driveway to ask about the gorgeous plant blooming.
When in production, they certainly did not like too much water, which may be a testament to why they performed so well in the median in Raymond. They appear drought tolerant in the landscape.
By all means, plant on raised beds with good drainage and mulch heavily, particularly as you go into winter. I hope you will look for angelonias at a garden center near you and see if you like them as much as I do.