‘Faux snapdragon’ Superstar can thrive in Texas heat

COLLEGE STATION — The new Texas Superstar plant, Agelonia Serena, is often called a summer snapdragon. But it’s not really a snapdragon, and that’s a good thing, said a Texas AgriLife Research horticulturist.

Angelonia Serena, Superstar plant with showy lavender and lavender-pink flowers

A new Texas Superstar plant, Angelonia Serena, is the first of the series to be commercially available as seed instead of cuttings. This makes it easier and cheaper for commercial bedding planters and home gardeners to grow, according to Texas AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturists. (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Dr. Brent Pemberton)

Agelonia Serena has showy flowers that more imaginative gardeners say resemble the mouth of a dragon, as do real snapdragons. But Angelonia Serena is of a different genus, said Dr. Brent Pemberton, AgriLife Research horticulturist and chair of the Texas Superstar executive board.

“And there’s more difference between the genera than just the name,” Pemberton said. “Snapdragons are considered a cool-season plant, at least for our climate, but Angelonia is a South American native and can tolerate the Texas heat well.”

As with all Superstar designated plants, Angelonia Serena was selected after extensive tests at Overton, Lubbock, San Antonio and College Station by AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturists.

To be designated a Superstar, a plant must not just be beautiful but also perform well for consumers and growers throughout Texas, Pemberton said. Superstars must also be easy to propagate, which should ensure the plants are not only widely available throughout Texas but also are reasonably priced.

For Angelonia Serena, the availability/price stipulation should particularly hold true because of the way it’s grown, Pemberton said.

“The Serena series from PanAmerican Seed is the first to be grown from seed instead of cuttings,” he said. “In the past, the varieties that were available commercially were grown from rooted cuttings – vegetatively propagated.”

Root cuttings are often used because is it a quicker way to get a new variety or series to commercial growers and to consumers, he said. Typically, a seed company will make a few promising selections from thousands of crosses. These candidates will be propagated from cuttings on a large scale, and cuttings from these large-scale propagations will be sold as plugs to commercial growers.

The time from final selections to market is very critical. The bedding plant industry is highly competitive, both for seed companies wanting to capture markets and for commercial growers wanting to supply the newest and most hardy plants to consumers, Pemberton explained.

“Developing seed typically takes years, so it’s more common to go with propagation from rooted cuttings to get something out the door quickly,” he said.

However, once a seed crop is developed from a new series, it is less labor intensive and therefore cheaper for commercial bedding plant companies to grow. These savings are usually passed onto the consumer, Pemberton said.

Angelonia Serena was available in early April in many home gardening centers, he said. It can be planted outside in home landscapes in the spring after danger of frost has passed. For most of Texas, planting should be safe now. For the High Plains, Pemberton recommended waiting until late April.

From AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension tests, Angelonia Serena thrived in all Texas locations, “from the hot, humid summers of East and Central Texas to the hot, dry days of the High Plains,” the Superstar board members noted in their official report.

“This popular summer annual puts on a nonstop show of flowers during the summer season,” the board members noted. “And it flowers more reliably than varieties grown from cuttings.

“Seed is available in white, purple, lavender, lavender-pink and mixes. They branch well without pinching and grow to about 12 to 18 inches tall in full sun. They are drought tolerant but need regular moisture. Shearing is not necessary but can be used to rejuvenate flowering. They can be used in the front of the border, as a ground cover, or even in mixed containers.”

Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by Texas AgriLife Research. More information about the Texas Superstar program can be found at http://texassuperstar.com/

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