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Senorita Rosalita cleome sizzles in summer gardens
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
If you choose the right flowers, your garden can have an exciting, festive atmosphere all summer long. If you’re looking for the life of the garden party, you need to look for the 2009 Mississippi Medallion award-winner Senorita Rosalita.
This outstanding new cleome creates interest and excitement in the garden by offering an intricate, spidery flower structure.
Many gardeners are concerned about growing cleomes because they have thorns that can be quite painful. They also don’t like that cleomes reseed -- a lot. If those two issues have kept you from growing cleomes in the past, then by all means try Senorita Rosalita cleome.
Senorita Rosalita is shorter than typical cleomes and is sterile, which means it does not set seeds. It also does not have thorns, and it blooms all season long. With attributes like that, you would guess it’s an award winner, and it is. It has a list of awards that humbles most other plants, and it has proven to be adaptable across the country.
In addition to winning the 2009 Mississippi Medallion award, a few other notable prizes Senorita Rosalita has received are the Prairie Star Award (Kansas State), Top Performer (Ohio State), Best of Trials (University of Florida) and Best Overall (Cornell University).
We are entering prime planting season for cleomes, as they are usually planted as young transplants in warm spring soil. Select a site that is well drained and receives plenty of sunlight. Morning sun and afternoon shade also work well.
If the bed is poorly drained, add 2 to 3 inches of organic matter and apply a good layer of mulch after planting. Mulch helps prevent moisture loss to evaporation and deters weeds, which compete for water and nutrients. Cleomes are drought tolerant once established. In midsummer, give them a little fertilizer, such as a 5-10-5, to help push them into the fall season.
Senorita Rosalita is available in a cheerful lavender-pink and can be used in any style of garden with a wide variety of plant combinations. In the landscape, place Senorita Rosalita to the rear of the border in a bold, informal drift. Space them 20 to 24 inches apart. This variety combines wonderfully with other flowers such as petunias, phlox, salvias and vincas. I’ve seen great combinations using them with yellow daylilies.
I also like them in tropical gardens with bananas -- after all, they do come from South America. They fit in cottage gardens and would be exceptional in public areas like golf courses and parks. They grow nearly 4 feet tall, attract hummingbirds and butterflies, and are both heat and drought tolerant.
If you are looking for an unusual flower as the thriller plant in mixed containers, the Senorita Rosalita is an excellent choice. Your choices for spiller and filler plants are limitless. Some of my favorite spillers would be Diamond Frost euphorbia or Flambe chrysocephalum, and for spillers, consider using Goldilocks lysimachia or Silver Falls dichondra.
Using flowers with a variety of textures creates interest and excitement in the garden, and a bold drift of Senorita Rosalita cleomes will certainly do its part. Plant some in your garden this weekend.