Garden & Landscape Tips

Coralbells 'Grande Amethyst'
Coralbells Grande Amethyst is a purple-leafed new perennial that does exceptionally well in heat and humidity.
(Credit: Terra Nova Nurseries)

Plant growers and breeders have come up with an innovative lineup of new perennials for 2021, including groundcover ajugas with multi-colored leaves, a compact version of a pollinator-magnet native flower, and a very good-looking herb. Five of the best newcomers to watch for this spring include:

Coralbells Grande Amethyst

Gardeners already have lots of great coralbells to pick from, but this newcomer from Oregon’s Terra Nova Nurseries is one of the best yet in dealing with heat and humidity. Grande Amethyst has wavy leaves in a rich, bold color along with color-coordinated wiry pink flowers that produce from July into September.

Plants grow a stocky 14 inches tall (30 inches counting the flowers) and do well in sun, shade, and everything between. It’s hardy in Zones 4-9.

Noble Nightingale and Petite Parakeet  new Feathered Friends ajugas
Noble Nightingale, left, and Petite Parakeet, right, are two of the new Feathered Friends ajugas debuting in 2021.
(Credit: Garden Solutions)

Ajuga Feathered Friends

Ajuga, or “bugleweed”, is getting a makeover for 2021 with new leaf-color choices, including the first golden and chartreuse varieties. The seven-variety, bird-named Feathered Friends series from Michigan’s Garden Solutions feature two of these new shades – Cordial Canary and Tropical Toucan – as well as gold/burgundy/green blends (Fancy Finch, Petite Parakeet, and Parrot Paradise), and ones that are nearly black (Noble Nightingale and Fierce Falcon).

All are hardy in Zones 4-8 and produce bluish-purple flower spikes in spring. Ajugas grow in spreading, four-inch-tall mats and do best in shade to part shade.

‘Summer’s Swan Song’ is a new variety of Ironweed
‘Summer’s Swan Song’ is a new variety of Ironweed that is smaller in size than its predecessor, and resists disease.
(Credit: Chicagoland Growers)

Ironweed ‘Summer’s Swan Song’

Ironweed is a late-summer to early-fall purple bloomer that doesn’t show up in many gardens, mainly because it’s so tall (five feet and up), prone to leaning, and susceptible to rust and mildew leaf diseases.

Dr. Jim Ault at the Chicago Botanic Garden developed this new hybrid that solves all three of those issues. ‘Summer’s Swan Song’ grows only three feet tall, has interlocking branches that hold it into a compact bush shape, and tested out with no disease in Chicago Botanic Garden trials despite other infected ironweed varieties around it.

The variety also blooms heavily from September into October and has narrow, olive-green leaves and red-purple stems. As with all ironweeds, pollinators love it. It’s hardy in Zones 4-9.

Ornamental oregano ‘Drops of Jupiter’
‘Drops of Jupiter’ is a new oregano that’s so attractive in flower and foliage that it’s being sold as an ornamental.
(Credit: Walters Gardens Inc.)

Ornamental oregano ‘Drops of Jupiter’

Most people think of oregano as a cooking herb. But this winter-hardy perennial also makes a good-looking sunny trailer, especially when it’s blooming. Although it’s perfectly edible, Proven Winners’ new ‘Drops of Jupiter’ oregano was selected for its ornamental value – blooming long and heavily in miniature clouds of purple-pink flowers. The foliage is also chartreuse instead of plain green.

‘Drops of Jupiter’ plants grow about two feet tall, do best in full sun, and are deer-resistant and bee-friendly. It’s hardy in Zones 4-9.

Hardy hibiscus Summerific ‘French Vanilla’
’French Vanilla’ grows large, beautiful white and pink flowers, and can survive in zones 4-9.
(Credit: Walters Gardens Inc.)

Hardy hibiscus Summerific ‘French Vanilla’

Proven Winners also is introducing a break-through new color in its high-performing line of Summerific hardy hibiscus. The new ‘French Vanilla’ variety has the familiar huge, trumpet-shaped, late-summer flowers of hardy hibiscus but it opens in a custard-yellow shade before turning white with a rosy-red throat. The flowers are ruffled and seven to eight inches wide.

Plants grow about four feet tall and do best in full sun to light shade. It’s hardy in Zones 4-9.

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