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PrattTribune - Pratt, KS
Flowers tested by K-State for the prairie climate
Fabulous foliage to compliment fanciful flowers
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By Dr. Stevens
Dr. Stevens has been at Kansas State University for over 20 years researching flowers. He serves as the State Extension Specialist in Floriculture and is director of the Horticulture Research Center in Olathe, KS Robin R. Dremsa is a Research ...
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Prairie Star Flowers
Dr. Stevens has been at Kansas State University for over 20 years researching flowers. He serves as the State Extension Specialist in Floriculture and is director of the Horticulture Research Center in Olathe, KS Robin R. Dremsa is a Research Associate who manages the flower trials. She's been at the K-State Hort. Research & Extension Center since 2007.
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April 18, 2013 4:15 p.m.

Foliagiferousness (fo-lee-age-iff'-er-os-ness)

    Foliagiferousness.  Is that even a word, you ask?  Well, it is now. You may or may not be familiar with the term "floriferousness," which refers to the overall visual impact of the a plant's flower display.  (See our previous post for more explanation.)  This is one of the qualities the entries in the K-State flower trials are judged on to make it on the Prairie Star list. On plants where the foliage is the main visual element, (e.g. Coleus, Sweet Potato) we changed the term to foliagiferousness to adapt the rating to take into account the color and visual impact of the leaves, not flowers.



    There is such a wealth of textures and colors to be found in the foliage of annual plants these days.  The slideshow below showcases some of the diversity.


  • The compact and nubby Sedum 'Lemon Coral' provides a pop of chartreuse color that works well in pots or landscape beds.

  • Ornamental grasses are great for soft flowing foliage, and they come in so many sizes and colors.  Pennisetum 'Vertigo' is excellent if you need a very large and bold plant with dark foliage but it does not produce seed heads like some ornamental grasses do.
  • Ipomoea, or Sweet Potato Vine, is a commonly used foliage plant due to its rapid growth and wide array of colors and leaf shapes.
  • Coleus cultivars are getting more and more diverse, and they aren't just for shade anymore. We were impressed with 'Under the Sea Gold Anemone' in last year's trials due to the unique style of leaves with deep lobes. The ColorBlaze series has performed very well in our sun and shade trials and has a wide range of colors to choose from.
  • If you have a large container in a shaded area, go for a prehistoric look with Begonia Gryphon.
  • Plectranthus 'Silver Shield' offers fuzzy silver foliage in a fairly tall (20") plant that can work as a backdrop for other annuals. 
  • What a great name: Colocasia 'Coffee Cups'! We recommend planting this one in a spot that's visible from a house window (it takes sun or shade). Then the next time it rains, sit down and watch the cup-shaped leaves fill with water, gently tip over to spill the water out and spring back up.  It is kind of like a water feature in a Japanese garden!
  • Hibiscus 'Mahogany Splendor' is a fast-growing colorful annual that's more like a tall screen by the end of the summer. With beautiful Maple-like leaves, it can be used in the landscape in many different ways. We have even seen some pruned like a topiary standard. The cultivar 'Maple Sugar' is equally good and both are on the Prairie Star list.

So, what can you do with all these foliagiferous plants?  One year we planted plants of similar color but different texture together in a simple design, using green/yellows and reds.

If you don't want to make a big commitment to one color, you can still incorporate foliage color and texture into your flowerbed design.  The example below has petunias in combination with spiky Juncus 'Blue Mohawk' and 'Colorblaze Royal Glissade' coleus. 

A good dark/light foliage & flower combination is Pennisetum 'Vertigo' with Petunia 'Supertunia Vista Silverberry.' The veining and throat color of the petunia matches the dark maroon color of the grass. 

View all the Plants for Foliage Display on the Prairie Star list and start getting creative!

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