Carol Siddall, Master Gardener
What's a Superstar you may be asking? I asked the same question before I became a Master Gardener over 12 years ago. I will try and relay what it means to become a Texas Superstar.
It is not an easy task to become one. Only the toughest, most reliable and best looking plants are given that name. Every plant that earns that name has undergone several years of extensive field trials by Texas A & M AgriLife Research and the AgriLife Extension Service. The Permian Basin Master Gardeners have participated in several trials including annuals, earth kind roses, tomatoes, Pomegranates, and Peach trees. We are currently in the beginning of a 5 year grape trail. (Yes, the Permian Basin is beginning to become a grape grower's field.) During these trials, the plant, bush, or tree, receives minimal soil preparation, reasonable watering, and no pesticide use.
One of the keys to the success of the Superstar program is the quality and reliability of the plant material. Every effort is made to ensure that the plants that have been trialed will perform well for Texas consumers. The decisions are based upon observations made at replicated plots and demonstration trials across the state. A fact that I was not aware of, is when they select plants for educational and marketing campaigns, they consider if there are sufficient numbers of the Texas Superstars to meet the increased consumer demand.
What does all this mean for the average homeowner like you and me? It means you will find plants, bushes, trees, and roses that have been successful. They have proven to be beautiful, Texas-tough plants. It is sometimes hard to find the Superstars in our local nurseries. If you want to try them, ask them if they will order or carry these plants for the consumer. The Permian Basin Master Gardeners usually have Texas Superstars at our plant sale held in the spring.
Here are a few of the Texas Superstars that have made the list.
*Angelonia, Summer Snapdragon: This star is a spreading annual with upright flower spikes. There is a variety of colors, and they flower all season until frost. Full sun, plant in spring, most soil types as long as well drained. A very reliable performer in all areas of Texas; tolerates heat well.
*Globe Amaranth (I know it as bachelor's buttons) are versatile, often overlooked, summer annual, that thrives in the Texas heat. Size and color will vary. The All Around, Las Vegas, and Fireworks are good performers. They take full sun, plant in early summer after nights become warm. Tolerates a wide range of soil types as long as well drained. They make a nice cut flower and dry well also.
*Laura Bush Petunia (one of my favorites) is an old-fashioned reseeding petunia. It is more cold and heat tolerant, and disease resistant than modern hybrids. Takes full sun and is a reseeding annual that blooms from spring until fall. Likes a well drained soil and does well in hanging baskets.
*Texas Gold Columbine is a cool season perennial that has bright yellow, lightly fragrant flowers. It likes full sun in winter and spring, but filtered shade in the summer. It likes well-drained soil with medium amount of water. It has a habit of clumping, and it throws it's seeds out. To help in not being invasive, I cut the flower heads off before they have a chance to pop on their own.
*Trailing Lantana is a perennial that likes full sun and adapts to most soils with good drainage. It looks great in a mass planting. Blooms from spring through frost and attracts butterflies. It is also resistant to the lantana lacebug.
*Belinda's Dream Rose is a fast growing shrub. It blooms very well through the warm months, especially if spent blooms are removed immediately. I have this rose, and I grow it in a very large pot and it has done well. It has a bush habit and can be as wide as 4 feet. Mine is up against our south facing sun room, and it has had blooms at Christmas.
This is just a very small list of the Texas Superstars. To find out more, you may call the Permian Basin AgriLife Offices in Odessa 432-498-4071, or Midland 432-686-4700. You can also go on line to Texassuperstar.com and see a complete list of the ones that made this year's list. 9-20-2016