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Melampodium providesa rock-solid performance
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
It's funny that melapodiums I used to consider ideal beginner plants are now “must haves” during summers that have a penchant to be both hot and dry.
A 1997 Mississippi Medallion award winner, the melampodium is in the aster family and native to Mexico and other hot locales in North America. It produces small, brightly colored, daisy-like flowers from spring through frost. Consider that in 1997, we really only had two or three varieties, and now every company has been working to have their own improved selection.
The plant is self-cleaning, meaning we don't have to spend hours deadheading. All we have to do is go out and enjoy. There is a little fact most consider icing on the cake. The plant is known to reseed or give a perennial-like performance, so in the spring pluck out the ones you don't want.
The melampodium needs full sun to bloom its best. It is tolerant of various soils as long as one criteria is met -- the soil must be well drained. If you have to use a pick axe to break the soil, then you really should add three to four inches of compost or humus to loosen it up.
While tilling the soil, incorporate a slow-release fertilizer like a 12-6-6 at a rate of 2 pounds per 100 square feet. You will want to space the plants about 8 to 16 inches apart depending on variety. Plant at the same depth they are growing in the container and follow with a good layer of mulch. Thin to the proper spacing when volunteers emerge in the spring.
Feed melampodiums about a month after transplanting and again in the middle of the summer. Even though the plant is drought tolerant, a deep soaking during prolonged dry periods will maintain the plants' appearance and vigor.
The yellow-gold color of the melampodium's blossoms allow them to partner wonderfully with blue-violet to purple flowers. Purple Wave petunias, Blue Wave petunias, New Wonder scaevola, Homestead Purple verbena and Biloxi Blue verbena are among the top choices. Salvias like the new Mystic Spires Blue, Victoria Blue, and Black and Blue are incredibly beautiful with melampodiums.
When shopping, it pays to know varieties. Derby, Million Gold, Golden Globe and Lemon Delight are all compact in the 8 to 10 inch range. Showstar is medium in height, reaching 24 to 30 inches, and Medallion is the tallest of all, hitting 36 inches plus.
Gardens are looking a little stressed as we struggle with lack of moisture. If you need a refresher with some tough plants, it will not take to long. The melampodium will perform well for you for the rest of the growing season without a lot of trouble on your part. Visit your garden center this weekend for these and other summer warriors.