Lots of color, easy care make these plants popular with gardeners

May 04, 2004|HERB BROCK

More than a decade ago, waves were the rave. In the last couple of years, knockouts have packed a retail punch. What's going to be the next plant that excites both garden center managers and gardeners?

Whatever it is, the consensus of garden center managers is that it will be a plant that, like wave petunias and knockout roses, have a lot of color and require little care.

"While gardeners plant what they think looks best in their lawns, no matter how much it costs and how much care it needs, they also are always on the lookout for plants that are easy to care for as well as look good," said Chris Davis, owner and manager of Pack's Nursery in Junction City.

Wave petunias gained popularity in the late 1980s because, compared to regular petunias, they were hardier, less "leggy" and gardeners didn't have to pinch off dead blooms, garden center managers said.


They became even more popular when other colors were added; the original wave petunias came only in purple.

"And waves are extremely versatile," said Paul Brooks of Chilton's garden center in Harrodsburg. "You can plant them as ground cover or border plants, put them in pots or use them in hanging baskets."

Knockout roses, which mainly come in reds, pinks and yellows, became the rage three to four years ago due to similar reasons. Like waves, they are colorful, easy-care plants.

"Knockouts are grown for their strength and their disease resistance," said Brooks. "They are bushy, grow to 5 feet in height and in width, take full sun and are hardy down to 15 degrees. And they bloom continuously from early spring to early fall and the first frosts."

And do they bloom, said Jackie Harness of Stonegate Gardens of Danville.

"Even whey they are small, knockouts will produce a dozen or more blooms at any one time," said Harness. "I saw a fully-grown plant that had more than 70 blooms on it. These plants are truly remarkable and, other than fertilizing them once a year and mulching before winter, you don't do anything else."

Another plant that gives gardeners a lot of bang for their bucks and little, if any, pain in their backs, is any of the varieties of ornamental grasses, said Davis.

"I call ornamental grasses 100 percenters because once you plant them and give them a little fertilizer, the only thing you have to do to them is cut them back in the fall," he said.

"While some produce little flowers, they mainly are used for borders and ground cover. They provide compactness and some height. But the main thing they provide is a piece of mind. They take care of themselves."

A sampling of popular plants

Here is a sampling of some other popular plants plus ones the garden center managers believe will become popular:

* Impatiens. Characteristics: an annual with great variety of color and versatility of use. Can be used as border plants, in pots and in hanging baskets. Performs best in semi-shady conditions.

* Firepower nandina. Characteristics: a shrub with brilliant leaf color that changes from one season to the next. Leaves are lime green in the spring, dark green in the summer and burgundy red in the fall. Performs best in full sun.

* Lantana. Characteristics: an annual that is similar to a wave petunia in that it comes in a variety of vibrant colors, spreads ands requires little care. Stands up straight but does not become "leggy."

* Japanese painted fern. Characteristics: a perennial that was named 2004 Perennial of the Year by a horticultural organization. Performs best in the shade.

* Magilla perilla. Characteristics: An annual that grows to a large size. It doesn't have flowers, but its maroon and green leaves are making it a popular foliage plant.

* Variegated false cypress: A shrub with pale green leaves with cream specks. It stays smalls and requires little care.

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