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Amazon dianthus named Louisiana Super Plant
by Dan Gill
by Dan Gill

email: dgill@agcenter.lsu.edu

Dan Gill earned B.S. and M.S. degrees in horticulture from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge, and is an Associate Professor in Consumer Horticulture with the LSU AgCenter.

He is the spokesperson for the LSU AgCenter’s Get It Growing project, a statewide educational effort in home horticulture utilizing radio, Internet, TV and newsprint. Gardeners throughout Louisiana read his columns in local newspapers, watch his gardening segments on local TV stations and listen to him on local radio. In the New Orleans area, Dan appears weekly on the Channel 4 Morning News, writes a weekly gardening column for The Times-Picayune and hosts the Saturday morning WWWL Garden Show, a live call-in radio program.

Dan is co-author of the Louisiana Gardener’s Guide and author of Month-by-Month Gardening in Louisiana. His “South Louisiana Region Report” and “Only in Louisiana” columns appear monthly in the Louisiana Gardener Magazine.


October 10, 2010

The Amazon dianthus series is a Louisiana Super Plants selection for fall 2010. This outstanding cool-season bedding plant comes in three outstanding varieties, Amazon Neon Purple, Amazon Neon Cherry and Amazon Rose Magic.

The two primary species of dianthus in Louisiana gardens are Dianthus chinensis, Chinese dianthus or pinks, and Dianthus barbatus, sweet William.

Pinks have always been more popular than sweet William because they bloom more reliably over a long season. Planted in fall, they bloom from then until late spring/early summer. They are generally shorter, bushy plants that produce profusions of flowers in shades of scarlet, rose, pink and white.

Sweet William plants are fairly low and bushy, but they produce their flowers in large clusters on long stems that look like lollipops. The main issue is they’re biennials. Planted in fall, they must go through the winter cold before they are triggered to bloom in spring. So, from a fall planting there are no flowers until spring. And as many gardeners have discovered, spring-planted transplants that have not been exposed to winter cold often fail to bloom.

The Amazon dianthus series was created by breeding together these two species – called an interspecific hybrid – and was developed by PanAmerican Seed Company. The results are nothing short of outstanding. Louisiana Super Plants selections are plants with exceptional characteristics and performance in Louisiana growing conditions, and the Amazon dianthuses really deserve this tribute.

The foliage is an unusually rich, deep green, and the narrow leaves form a mound at the base. Even out of bloom, the foliage provides a verdant green color in the winter landscape.

When the plants bloom, the flower stalks are very similar to sweet Williams. The stocky flower stalks are clothed in narrow green foliage, rising about 2 feet above the base growth and producing large clusters of colorful flowers. Unlike sweet Williams, however, Amazon dianthuses do not have to go through winter cold to trigger flowering.

Purchase and plant these blooming plants this fall, and they will bloom through fall and intermittently during winter and then put on a traffic-stopping display of colorful flowers from late February or March though late May or early June. Excellent heat tolerance means they generally bloom reliably well into early summer.

During the flowering period you should remove faded flower stalks. When all of the flowers in a cluster have faded, cut the stalk back to the lower foliage. Removing faded flowers is called deadheading, and it will keep your plants looking fresh and attractive and encourage them to continue to bloom.

The three colors included in the Amazon series – Neon Purple, Neon Cherry and Rose Magic – are brilliant and eye-catching. Neon Purple and Neon Cherry practically glow, their colors are so intense and vivid. Planted together, the colors seem to vibrate visually. You can buy each color separately and plant them together or buy them in a combination called Neon Duo. I guarantee, everyone will notice a planting of these colors, either individually or together.

Because the Neon Purple and Neon Cherry produce such colorfully dominate flowers, you can combine them with other flowers with strong colors such as deep purple, gold or burgundy. Or, you can tone them down with shades of blue, lavender, pale yellow, silver or white.

Amazon Rose Magic is, I must admit, my favorite. The large clusters of flowers go through a remarkable, even “magical,” transformation as they bloom. The flowers open a bright white, age to a soft pink and finally finish up an intense rose. All three colors appear simultaneously in each cluster of flowers. Combine Rose Magic with other flowers of blue, lavender, pink, silver and white for an elegant effect in the garden or in containers.

Although at 2 feet they are relatively tall, full-grown plants are not leggy. The flowers form an almost-solid layer over the plants, and flower stalks at the edge of a group tend to bend over creating a full appearance. For this reason, Amazon dianthus is versatile and can be used in front of taller-growing, cool-season bedding plants, such as tall snapdragons, foxgloves or delphiniums. Or they can be used in the middle or back of a bed with shorter-growing bedding plants like alyssum, pansy, viola or dwarf snapdragons.

As with other cool-season bedding plants, best performance of Amazon dianthus depends on proper planting and care. Select a site in full sun with good drainage. Prepare the bed by working 3 to 4 inches of organic matter (such as compost) into the upper 6 to 8 inches of soil. Space plants 10 to 14 inches apart, and plant them at the same depth they were growing in the container. When planting is finished, mulch the bed with an inch or two of your favorite mulch to reduce weed problems, and water everything in.

Fall planting is much preferred because it will provide the longest flowering in your gardens as well as more spectacular blooming plants in the spring. These plants are hardy into temperatures in the teens and will not be bothered by average Louisiana winter temperatures. But you can plant them as late as March and expect good results.

Look for Amazon dianthuses in your local nurseries. Because these plants are Louisiana Super Plants selections, signs showing the logo, pictures of the plants and growing information will be placed in nurseries and garden centers around the state to help shoppers find and choose Louisiana Super Plants.

photo from Pan Amercian Seed, Amazon Rose Magic

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