Baby's Breath euphorbia a Texan plant at heart

Two Baby's Breath euphorbia varieties, HipHop and Manaus in pots

Texas AgriLife Research has tested several varieties of Baby's Breath euphorbia, a new Texas Superstar designee. "White Manaus (right) from GroLink has been the most vigorous in our trials and stands up brilliantly to our Texas heat," said Dr. Brent Pemberton, AgriLife Research horticulturist and chair of the Texas Superstar executive board. (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Dr. Brent Pemberton)

COLLEGE STATION — Because the plant wimps out in the Texas heat, about the only place Texas gardeners are used to seeing Baby’s Breath gypsophilia is in the floral shop.

But a new Texas Superstar designee, Baby’s Breath euphorbia, breathes easily and flowers profusely even during the hottest Texas summers, according to Texas AgriLife Research experts.

In climates that are less demanding, Baby’s Breath gypsophilia, is grown for edging or ground cover, said Dr. Mike Arnold, AgriLife Research horticulturist and member of the Texas Superstar executive board.

Though similar in appearance to gypsophilia, Baby’s Breath euphorbia is not just another species but of a different genus, one that is fully adapted to Texas conditions, Arnold said.

“The reason it’s called Baby’s Breath euphorbia by our group is that it has a general whispy, white cloudlike effect with fine texture, providing a background for highlighting other flowers,” he said. “So the name is a reference more to its functionality that it is to its botanical background.”

Doing well throughout the state is the first prerequisite for a plant to be admitted to Superstar ranks. A plant must not just be beautiful but perform well for consumers and growers throughout Texas, said Dr. Brent Pemberton, AgriLife Research horticulturist and chair of the Texas Superstar executive board. Superstars must also be easy to propagate, a requisite that insures designees are widely available and reasonably pricece throughout Texas.

Most Superstars are selected only after extensive tests at Overton, Lubbock, San Antonio and College Station by AgriLife Research and Texas AgriLife Extension Service horticulturists. Baby’s Breath euphorbia was no exception, Pemberton said.

The whispy white flowers of Baby’s Breath euphorbia tend to create a “mound effect” during the season, Arnold said.

“It provides a nice filler material to highlight some of our brighter colored flowers or around some of our coarser-textured foliage where it might act as a foil or accent,” he said.

Baby's Breath euphoribia, a 2011 Texas Superstar, in a demonstration garden

All varieties of Baby's Breath euphorbia can be woven in with bedding plants of other colors and textures for effect, as they were here in this demonstration garden at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton. (Texas AgriLife Research photo by Dr. Brent Pemberton)

Arnold said the plant also does extremely well when grown in containers, such as patio pots and around pools.

“It can also be used in the ground,” he said. “It also works in hanging baskets where it can be a filler component for those as well.”

There are actually several cultivars of Baby’s Breath euphorbia on the market, Arnold said.

“We’re not designating a single one because in our efforts to test these, a number of them appeared to perform fairly similarly,” he said. “So rather than promoting a single cultivar on this, we’re looking at those (we tested) as a group.”

“The cultivar, White Manaus from GroLink, has been the most vigorous in our trials and stands up brilliantly to our Texas heat,” Pemberton said. “Breathless White from Ball FloraPlant is another strong grower.”

AgriLife Researchers also tested Silver Fog from Dummen Red Fox and Hip Hop from GroLink, and found them to be best used in mixed containers, Pemberton said.

“They blend and support any plant they are mixed with,” he said.

Pemberton noted that all the Euphorbias are vegetatively propagated. Their water-use is moderate, and they don’t need shearing.

“They are going to be annuals for us,” Arnold said. “In warmer climates they might function as a perennial, but generally speaking, in our region they are going to be an annual.”

Pictures of Baby’s Breath euphorbia and other 2011 Texas Superstars can be found at the AgriLife Today Flikr photostream at http://www.flickr.com/photos/agrilifetoday/sets/72157626917838436/ .

Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by Texas AgriLife Research, a state agency that is part of the Texas A&M University System. More information about the Texas Superstar program can be found at http://texassuperstar.com/.

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