Savvy gardeners know to look for the blue diamond logo when picking out annual flowers for their summer garden. This logo stands for Arkansas Diamond plants — good annual plants for your garden that have been grown by Arkansas growers.
The Arkansas Diamond program is a partnership between the Arkansas Green Industry Association, the University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Cooperative Extension Service, local growers and independent garden centers. The goal of the program is to educate Arkansas gardeners about annual ornamental plants that consistently perform well in our state while promoting local growers.
This will be the fourth year for the program, and four more plants have been added to the list. The 2018 annual choices are cuphea vermillionaire, wasabi coleus, bouquet deep blue torenia and dragon’s breath celosia.
- Cuphea vermillionaire is taking the place of the old cigarette flower that folks grew years ago. This
firecracker plant will produce hundreds of small tubular-shaped blooms in red and orange. The more sunlight it gets and the hotter it gets, the better it blooms. Give it ample moisture to get established, but once established, it is quite drought-tolerant. The plant will grow to 18-30 inches tall or higher in one season. It will continue to bloom until frost. In southern Arkansas it should be a perennial, but from central Arkansas north we consider it an annual. The hummingbirds and butterflies love this plant.
Wasabi coleus is one of the strongest coleus plants on the market. Its bright chartreuse foliage will take full sun to partial shade. It will grow in the shade but the foliage is more a normal green the more shade it gets. The plant will grow 24-36 inches tall and will pretty much take care of itself. It has large, serrated leaves with very few, if any, blooms late in the season. It will make a dramatic statement in the garden. It likes warm soil and even moisture.
- Bouquet deep blue torenia is an outstanding performing wishbone flower
in the shade garden. The plant will be covered in small deep blue flowers with a pale throat all summer into fall. To keep it blooming, fertilize every few weeks and water regularly. It performs best in morning sun and afternoon shade or filtered sun. It will bloom in heavy shade, just not as freely. The plant does well as a border or edging plant growing 6-8 inches tall with a 20-inch spread. It will do well in the ground or in hanging baskets.
- Dragon’s breath celosia is not the cockscomb your grandmother grew. This reddish green foliaged plant
is topped with show-stopping bright red plumes all summer long. It is great in containers or planted in the ground in full sun. The hotter and more humid it gets, the better it blooms. Water the plant to get it established, but once its roots are established it is fairly drought-tolerant. However if it gets bone dry, consistent watering will help it grow and bloom better. The plant grows 24-36 inches tall.
With these four new additions there are now 16 great plants in the Arkansas Diamond program, all worth planting in your garden. As a refresher on past choices, they are:
- 2017 — Big or whopper begonia, White Christmas caladium and vista bubblegum petunia.
- 2016 — “Graffiti Red” pentas and “Sriracha Pink” cuphea and the shade-loving “Velvet Elvis” plectranthus.
- 2015 — Red dragonwing begonia, purple angelonia, cora cascade polka dot vinca, redhead coleus, blue scaevola and gold/yellow lantana.
When choosing your summer annuals, check out the Arkansas Diamonds at your local independent garden centers. To find a list of retailers who are participating in the program visit the website at www.argia.org/?page=ARDiamondsPartners. Look for the Arkansas Diamonds logo when shopping, and feel confident that you are supporting local businesses and purchasing plants that will be successful in your garden. The program not only promotes good plants, but also helps to promote local growers and local independent garden centers. Arkansas Diamond plants are locally grown and Arkansas tough! To find out more about the program visit: https://argia.site-ym.com/?ARDiamonds.
Janet B. Carson is an extension horticulture specialist for the University of Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service.