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Two new shade plants will arrive this spring
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Maracas and Veranda are a couple of great new shade plants coming to Mississippi this spring. If you don't see them at any of the spring garden shows, ask for them at the local garden center, so you can be the first to have them in your neighborhood.
Maracas has the common name Brazilian Fireworks, and its botanical name is Porphyrocoma pohliana. Believe me when I say it gives me fits both pronouncing and spelling this name. Maracas is the named variety of the plant you'll be looking for this spring. It is related to the shrimp plant as well as the old-fashioned Jacobinia.
Think about the yellow shrimp plant. It has a cone of yellow bracts with white flowers emerging. The Maracas brings a whole new meaning to the term flamboyant. Instead of a yellow cone, it has a red one and instead of white flowers, they are lavender purple. If this weren't enough to make you buy it, consider also that the foliage is a variegated silver and green.
Maracas is a heat-loving tropical shade plant. It performs well outdoors during the summer in mixed containers or as a bedding plant. Use it in combination with dark green or blue forms of hosta.
The plants will only reach 8 to 12 inches tall. Those colorful purple and lavender flowers will prove to be a delight to hummingbirds. I liked growing it last summer in containers and in the landscape.
The next new shade plant is called Veranda, like the big porch on the old houses where Southerners sit and relax out of the blazing sun. This Veranda is a hot new scutellaria. What's that? Let's just say it is related to the salvia. The plant has an open, if not arching, habit that makes it great for planters, mixed containers and baskets.
The flowers are a stunningly iridescent bluish purple. I grew them under a covered porch in an iron planter on a brick wall and combined them with a lime green coleus. It reaches about 12 inches tall, spreading 12 to 18 inches, so they arched out gracefully from the container.
Veranda is recommended for the morning sun and afternoon shade garden or one that has high filtered light. Considered an annual, I suspect it may offer a little more cold tolerance in the southern part of the state, especially for those grown in the ground. Right now I still see some green on the ones at my house. Regardless, you'll find it a great plant.There is one more very noteworthy tidbit about Veranda. As I sat on that porch each day, I wasn't alone. The ruby-throated hummingbirds made frequent visits to the flowers. In fact, I would say they adored the flowers, and my guess is you will, too.