Tired of the same old mums, black-eyed Susans, and orange daylilies? Plant breeders have been hard at work developing lots of new perennial flowers that bloom longer, come in new colors, and grow sturdier than past versions.
Some new introductions for 2012 worth trying include:
Anemone 'Pretty Lady Diana'
© Blooms of Bressingham
Anemone ‘Pretty Lady Diana’ Japanese anemones are among the latest-blooming perennials, giving gardeners an alternative to mums, asters, and sedums. This new introduction from Blooms of Bressingham is an unusually compact, sturdy selection with deep pink flowers. It needs no staking and blooms heavily in September and October. Flower stems reach about 16 inches tall. Thrives in full sun to part shade. Hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.
Black-eyed Susan ‘Little Goldstar’ is a compact new version of our native black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia) that tops out around 14 inches tall in contrast to older selections that reach 2 feet or taller, and may need staking in windy spots. 'Little Goldstar' blooms heavily and uniformly in summer with rich gold flowerheads. Flowering begins slightly earlier than the widely used old favorite, ‘Goldsturm.’ It prefers full sun and is hardy in USDA Zones 4-10.
Colocasia 'Bikini tini'
© Plants Nouveau
Colocasia ‘Bikini-tini’. Colocasia is the tropical foliage plant that most people call “elephant ears.” It’s usually grown as a summer container centerpiece or a water-garden plant. In northern climates it does not survive freezing weather and must be dug and stored inside over winter. This new introduction from Plants Nouveau is touted as being winter-hardy to zero degrees, meaning it can be left in the ground in USDA Zones 6-11. ‘Bikini-tini’ has large, upward-facing, blue-green leaves that form a cup to catch pearls of rainwater. Grow in full sun or part shade. To 5' tall.
Hibiscus 'Summer Storm'
© Proven Winners
Hibiscus ‘Summer Storm’ is another big, showy new tropical look-alike. It displays pink flowers with rose veins and a deep magenta eye 8" to 10" across from summer through autumn. It also has eye-grabbing deep wine-purple leaves to go along with the enormous flowers. Best in full sun with moist soil. This winter-hardy hibiscus is from Walters Gardens and Proven Winners. 4'-5' tall. Hardy in USDA Zones 4-9.
Dianthus ‘Candy Floss’ has tussocks of almost evergreen, narrow, gray-green foliage and flowers that look like miniature carnations. These are two-toned apple-blossom pink with a deeper pink, mildly fragrant, and provide long-lasting color from May sometimes through summer and into September. This compact little sun-lover from Skagit Gardens and Garden Splendor Plants does best in full sun with good drainage. It grows about 10 inches tall and is hardy in USDA Zones 5-8.
Helleborus ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Sally.’ Nicknamed “Lenten rose” for their very early bloom time, hellebores have become popular lately for their ability to grow even in dry shade and to resist being eaten by deer. Newcomers ‘Charlotte’ and ‘Sally’ belong to the “Spring Promise” series that has large, more upright flowers in bright new colors. ‘Charlotte’ is a white-and-rose bicolor, and ‘Sally’ is soft yellow. Both have 3-inch-wide flowers that typically open in February and continue for weeks. The fingered foliage is evergreen. Best in shade or part shade. 2 feet tall and hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.
Coneflower Sombrero Series. In the last few years countless improved coneflowers (Echinacea) have hit the market, in all sorts of colors and bloom variations. Among the latest hot new introductions is this compact series from Darwin Perennials. The first three of the series are ‘Sombrero Hot Coral’, ‘Sombrero Salsa Red’, and ‘Sombrero Sandy Yellow.’ All are sturdy with an upright habit and have brightly colored petals held more horizontally than drooping round the central cone. The flowers are butterfly magnets. Best in full sun. 2' tall and hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.