(1/30) Now is the time of year that gardeners think about next year’s gardens and planning what new and exciting plants to try. If you have trouble selecting the right perennial plant for the right spot so that it survives to return again and again, you are not alone. Proper site and plant selection are the toughest criteria to get right for amateur gardeners AND even
Master Gardeners and Garden Club members. I can attest to the latter two definitely being accurate since they both apply to me. However, there is an organization, the Perennial Plant Association, who, starting in 1990 made this selection of reliable and beautiful perennials much easier by launching The Perennial Plant of the Year™ program. Remember that perennial plants
grow, bloom, set seed and die back over winter to return in the spring unlike annuals. Annuals bloom, set seed and do not return as the original plant, but potentially as self-sown seedlings or not at all.
The purpose of The Perennial Plant of the Year™ program is to showcase a single perennial plant that stands out among other similar rivals. Perennials chosen have the best attributes that led to their selection as The Perennial Plant of the Year™. They are suitable for a wide range of growing climates, are low maintenance, are interesting for more than one season, and
are fairly disease free. Gardeners can be relatively assured that these chosen plants will succeed given proper care.
Members of the Perennial Plant Association choose one perennial each year. In addition to voting, members submit nominations for future consideration. Some 400 plus plants can be nominated in a single year. The Perennial Plant of the Year™ committee reviews the nominations and selects three or four perennials to be placed on the ballot.
Nominations need to meet these criteria:
- Suitable for a wide range of climatic conditions.
- Relative pest free and disease resistant.
- Readily availability in the year of promotion.
- Multiple seasons of interest.
The listing of plants chosen since the beginning of this process shows a diversity of plants suited to a variety of garden interests. Complete horticultural information on each can be found at the web site: www.perennialplant.org/index. The list is in year order starting with 1990 and ending with 2017.
Phlox stolonifera - Purple flowered phlox
Heuchera micrantha ‘Palace Purple’ - Dark purple/green leaves
Coreopsis verticillata ‘Moonbeam’ - Solid yellow flowers with yellow centers
Veronica ‘Sunny Border Blue’ - Tall blue narrow spires of flowers
Astilbe ‘Sprite’ - Fernlike foliage with pink feathery spires
Perovskia atriplicifolia Russian Sage – Small shrub with tall lacey purple floral spires
Penstemon digitalis ‘Husker Red’ - Red stems, pale flowers, burgundy foliage
Salvia ‘Mainacht’ May Night - Purple floral spires on broader green leaved stems
Echinacea purpurea ‘Magnus’ - Deep fuscha colored coneflower
Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantiii ‘Goldsturm’- Black-eyed Susan
Scabiosa columbaria ‘Butterfly Blue’ - Round very blue circular flowers
Calamagrostis x acutiflora ‘Karl Foerster’ - Ornamental grass
Phlox ‘David’ - White flowers
Leucanthemum ‘Becky’ Daisy – White daisy with yellow center
Anthyrium niponicum ‘ Pictum’ - Red stemmed fern with green and white fronds stripe
Heleborus x hybrids - Many-colored Hellebore hybrids.
Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Feuerhexe’ - Fusha flowers
Nepeta ‘Walkers Low’ - Mounding small leaf habit with lavender flowers
Geranium ‘Rozanne’ - Blue-purple flowers
aureola’ - Ornamental grass
Baptisia australis - Vibrant blue flowers leading to interesting black seed pods
Amsonia hubrichtii - White star like flowers on taller stems
Brunnera "Jack Frost’ - Variegated blue Forget Me Not-like flowers with green and white leaves
Polygonatum odoratum ‘Variegatum’ - Solomans Seal foliage with white edged leaves
Panicum virgatum ‘Northwind’ – Tall Switch Grass
Geranium ‘Biokoyo’ – Dwarf Cranesbill Geranium (hardy)
Anemone x hybrid ‘Honorine Jobert’ – White Japanese anemone
Asclepias tuberosa – Butterfly Weed
For 2017, the Perennial Plant of the Year is Asclepias tuberosa, commonly known as butterfly weed. It should really be called "butterfly plant" because it certainly is not a weed. And, it should not be confused with the shrub butterfly bush or buddleia, a plant that is rapidly becoming considered invasive
in some areas.
Asclepias tuberosa is a long-lived and striking perennial with vibrant orange-red-yellow flowers that is a great addition to any garden since these plants are butterfly magnets. It is a member of the milkweed family - plants with a milky sap poisonous to most insects. Clusters of vibrant almost fluorescent orange flowers bloom late spring through mid-July. Large
teardrop shaped pods containing individual seeds attached to feathery plumes are dispersed by the wind when the pod pops open.
Mature plants do not transplant well so proper initial location is important including full sun and good soil drainage. Hardy to zone 4, plants grows 2-3’ high with about a 2’ spread. Avoid cutting back in late fall, wait until early spring. Mulching young plants prevents frost heaving. Mature plants develop new shoots at the base, sending up multiple stems from a
large taproot that can extend down a foot or more. Because of this, dividing is difficult but can be done in early spring before new growth begins.
Asclepias tuberosa is a native prairie plant in addition to a being great cultivated perennial. Plant in large masses for an unrivaled display of eye-popping orange flowers. Another bonus is that deer leave it alone! Many butterflies, especially the Monarch, and other pollinators visit butterfly weed as well as hummingbirds. For this reason, and its colorful
contribution to the garden, try growing this year’s Perennial Plant of the Year.
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