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Plant Citrona for top orange, yellow displays
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
The highly colorful and attractive foliage of flowering cabbage, kale and mustard gain them a lot of attention, but keep your eyes open for the breathtakingly beautiful flowers of Citrona Orange.
Citrona is not a name you will be familiar with and neither will its botanical name, Erysimum x allionii, bring you comfort. Many Erysimums are from places like Afghanistan, Pakistan and Western Europe. It is in the cabbage or mustard family, and it has some common names that are not very enticing either, such as Orange Bedder and Siberian Wallflower.
Now on the positive side, Citrona may have been the most photographed plant at the California Pack Trials. The Citrona series boast a flaming iridescent orange and a brilliant yellow, although it appears the yellow is in short supply. They are being marketed from Pan American Seed as a pansy pal, and believe me, they do make a stunning companion for these cool-season warriors.
Another cabbage family flower called Stock has been a challenge for us to grow in the South, but the Citrona will be cold hardy from zones 7-9, which means everyone in Mississippi can enjoy them. I noticed they were for sale at the recent Fall Flower and Garden Fest in Crystal Springs. I have visited with enough growers to know that more will be coming to the marketplace in the next few weeks, so keep your eyes open.
The Citrona sends up spikes loaded with orange or yellow flowers that have a tantalizing fragrance. Even gardeners who don't like orange and yellow have been won over by their aroma. The flower spikes reach 18 to 24 inches tall and spread to 12 to 18 inches. Plant them about 9 inches apart. They prefer sun but are tolerant of part shade. The soil must be well drained for winter survival. If your soil is really acidic, then add raise the pH a little by adding lime.
Technically, they are biennial, but we will be treating them as annuals planted each fall. Reports show that some plantings are still around after six years, but this is from self-sowing. Expect it to be an annual. If you get a perennial-like performance similar to some salvias or melampodiums, you can keep the ones you want.
Their bloom resembles the pattern of a snapdragon putting on a dazzling show in the fall and spring. Since the Citrona gets 18 to 24 inches tall, use pansies in the foreground. Try the new Matrix Blue Blotch pansy in front, and I promise you will stop traffic. Pansies with splashes of a rusty burgundy or mahogany are also a stunning combination. Dwarf snapdragons like the Montego series that get about 12 inches tall also would make a striking partnership.
Fall's early cool spells are perfect for planting. Get to your garden center this weekend and look for new pansies, snapdragons, dianthus, kale and cabbage, and include plants you have never heard of like the Citrona Orange.