Since 1990, the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) has annually selected one outstanding perennial for gardeners to enjoy. Last week, at the annual PPA Symposium in Portland, OR, members selected Arkansas amsonia (Amsonia hubrichtii) as the 2011 Perennial Plant of the Year.
Why wait until next year to purchase amsonia? It is available now through many garden centers, mail order, and on-line nurseries. Amsonia begins its rapid growth in early April. A month later, the 3 foot tall and wide plants are blooming. Pale “bluestar” flowers bloom over 2-3 weeks in the southern Appalachian region (USDA zones 6 and 7).
Flowering is just a prelude to its other attributes. Blue-green, fine textured summer foliage is devoid of serious disease and insect problems and is deer proof. In October, its foliage turns a spectacular lemony yellow. To achieve maximum autumn foliar impact, plant three or more amsonia spaced 3 to 4 feet apart.
Amsonia forms strong stems under full day sunlight; branches are weak or floppy in partial shade. It grows in any well-drained soil with a pH range from 5.6 -6.8. Established plants are heat, humidity, and drought tolerant.
Furthermore, don’t overlook another perennial favorite, bluestar amsonia (A. tabernaemontana), which will be featured in a future blog.