Colors of the rainbow

August 20, 2009

by Nancy Kramer
Victoria County Master Gardener

edited by Charla Borchers Leon
Victoria County Master Gardener
Red Knock-out Rose
Don't you want to better your chances for gardening success and help to further beautify and protect our Texas environment? You, too, can do that by choosing Texas Superstar Plants.

Today's article follows last week when I discussed the SuperStar program and planting color in the garden according to the color wheel.

My Gardening Preference

I jumped on the bandwagon of collecting Texas SuperStars when I first heard about the program in 2002, when joined the Victoria County Master Gardeners. The SuperStar program has been around since the introduction of the first Texas Superstar Plant in 1989.

I just don't have that green thumb like other gardeners, and I get so much success and pleasure from the Texas SuperStars. I guess you could say they are my passion.

Master Gardener Practices

The Master Gardener program emphasizes environmental horticulture - reducing inputs such as water, pesticides, fertilizers, energy and labor in the landscape and garden. Efficient use of water will help save our aquifers. Eliminating excess use of chemical fertilizers prevents undesirable water supply contamination. And the use of less-toxic pesticides as a first resort, and following proper plant selection will reduce inputs and yet maintain a quality landscape.

Proper Plant Selection

Selecting Texas SuperStars is a great place to start. The Superstar program, created by Jerry Parsons, an extension service horticulturist, actually had its roots in his desire to have a planted Texas flag of Texas blue, red and white bluebonnets, but that's another story.

Color-Coded SuperStar Check List

For an easy-to-use list of Texas Superstar plants, I have designed this list by color alone, but keep in mind specific needs of each plant when placing it in your landscape.

They all desire full sun, except for the Texas gold columbine, which prefers sun in winter and shade in summer, so it would do well planted under a deciduous tree. Many times sun-loving plants will do OK in the shade, but perform best with proper light exposure.

Almost all of the Superstars are drought-tolerant, and can be grown in alkaline soil, except for the Lord Baltimore perennial hibiscus, which prefers neutral to acidic soil. They all require well-drained soil, except the waterlilies need heavy clay and the New Wonder fan flower, which is an annual, prefers well-aerated soil in a container.

Many of the Texas Superstars are well adapted and do great in containers. The petunias especially like to be in hanging baskets, and the maroon bluebonnet, Yubi purslane and blue princess verbena can be used in a basket also.

To find information about the use and care of these plants click on the Texas Department of Agriculture Web site:

Personally, the most highly recommended and easiest to find of the Texas Superstars are the New Gold lantana, gold star esperanza (yellow bells), firebush, blue plumbago, Belinda's dream and knockout roses (which have received the prestigious EarthKind Rose designation, in addition to being Superstars.)

The lantanas, salvias and petunias need shearing between blooms cycle to promote more blooms. A special need of the Texas lilac vitex is that you must keep it a size where you can reach it to prune off the spent blooms before they form seeds. This promotes more blooming, but especially prevents undesirable seedlings. Prune it to the ground before spring, so it will be a many-branched bush.

The mari-mum is a great substitute for the more expensive chrysanthemums to add fall color. Plant the American marigold, not yet in bloom, in early to mid August to avoid spider mites, and get great blooming until frost. The Discovery series comes in orange and yellow.

Most of the perennials are hardy in South Texas and Victoria County, Zone 9. Most of them need heavy pruning to keep them the proper size if they do not freeze back. The yellow bells, duranta, firebush and variegated tapioca are referred to as per-annuals and sometimes replanted in colder area. The tapioca does not like temperatures below 50 degrees and is grown as an annual in all but southernmost Texas. It is one that is desired for its vivid chartreuse/yellow foliage and not the bloom.

Many of the Superstars are grown at Victoria Educational Gardens. The gardens is also a site for test beds to aid in Texas AgriLife Research in selecting more Superstars. The test plants located in the gardens to the east of the cathedral gazebo include the Texas firebush or compact firebush, pink flare hibiscus, white peppermint flare hibiscus, dwarf bush morning glory and the very special Grandma's yellow rose.

A Perfect Yellow Rose for Texas

Grandma's yellow rose has a story behind it that is as special as your Grandma. Texas AgriLife extension horticulturists Greg Grant, Larry Stein and Jerry Parsons were in search of a yellow rose for Texas.

They began searching for one that was easy to propagate on its own root, was a rich shade of yellow, was a grandiflora hybrid tea type bush rose, has a nice size bloom, has repeat blooms, and was fragrant. They were really looking for the perfect yellow rose for Texas. Grant found this rose at an abandoned motel in Nacogdoches and tested along with a few other yellow roses.

They grew six bushes of each of the yellow roses in Stein's grandmother, Tillie Jungman's garden. Jungman grew to love this particular rose best and it did perform the best of all the others and had passed the test. When Parsons was attending Jungman's funeral, he noticed all the pallbearers coming in with yellow rose buds in their lapels and at that moment he decided that the rose would forever be called Grandma's yellow.

When you go out to visit the gardens, check out the rainbow of colors the master gardeners have nourished - and you just might find that pot of gold at the end of that rainbow.
Knockout rose (red)
Texas maroon bluebonnet 'alamo fire'
Pink bunny bloom larkspur
Burgundy sun coleus (for foliage)
Pink parfait coleus (for foliage)
Flare perennial hibiscus (flare red)
Moy grande perennial hibiscus (rose pink)
Lord Baltimore perennial hibiscus (red)
Butterfly deep pink pentas
Pink dwarf Mexican petunia 'bonita'
Tidal wave cherry petunia
John Fanick perennial phlox (pink)
Yubi red, rose, pink, scarlet purslane
Belinda's dream rose (pink)
Marie Daley Rose (pink)
Spicy jatropha jatropha compacta (red)
Colorado water lily (pink)
Laydekeri Fulgens water lily (burgundy red)
Red flare water lily


Mari-mum discovery orange
Firebush hamelia patens
Pride of Barbados (combination oranges)
Yubi apricot and summer joy orange purslane

Grandma's yellow rose
Texas gold columbine
Gold star esperanza
New gold lantana
Phalaenopsis orchid
Yubi yellow purslane
Mari-mum tagetes erecta discovery yellow
Clyde Ikins water lily
Texas Dawn water lily

Variegated tapioca

Numerous other Texas SuperStar plants display a variety of shades and tints of green in leaves, stems and sepals.

Henry Duelberg salvia farinacea
Texas blue bluebonnet
Blue bunny bloom larkspur
Cape plumbago

Dwarf purple Mexican petunia Katie
Brazilian Sky Flower Duranta erecta
New wonder fan flower scaevola
Imperial purple trailing lantana
Laura Bush petunia
Panama Pacific water lily
Phalaenopsis orchid
Texas lilac vitex


Victoria Perennial Phlox
Mexican bush sage
Blue princess verbena
VIP petunia violet in profusion
Star of Siam water lily


Tidal Wave Silver Petunia
Flare peppermint hibiscus (offspring in trials; White with red)
Weeping white trailing lantana
Satsuma mandarin miho
Dwarf Mexican petunia Katie White
Yubi white purslane
Orange ~  Mari-mum
Yellow ~ Grandma's Yellow Rose
Green ~ Variegated Tapioca
Blue ~ Henry Duelberg Salvia
Indigo ~ Dward Mexican Petunia
Violet ~ Victoria Perennial Phlox