Horticulturist: Great color, less mess and no trellis needed
Writer: Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, firstname.lastname@example.org
COLLEGE STATION – A new Texas Superstar selection, Rio Series Mandevilla, promises great color without the mess of older Mandevillas, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Texas AgriLife Research horticulturists.
“Rio displays a controlled, upright habit with little to no vining,” said David Rodriguez, AgriLife Extension agent for horticulture in Bexar County, San Antonio. “So it’s easy to manage in production and creates a tidy, upscale presentation at retail. Consumers get steady color — large blooms in vivid shades — all summer long, even through extreme heat and humidity.”
Texas Superstars plants undergo extensive tests at Overton, Lubbock, San Antonio and College Station by AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension horticulturists, according to Rodriguez, who is a member of the Texas Superstar board. To be designated a Superstar, the plant must not just be beautiful but also perform well for consumers and growers throughout Texas. Superstars must also be easy to propagate, which should ensure the plants are not only widely available throughout Texas but also are reasonably priced.
Though a sub-tropical plant like the other Mandevillas, the Rio Series can be grown throughout Texas, even in the Panhandle and Northern Texas, because it is well suited to container gardening, Rodriguez said.
“The standard Mandevilla for many, many years used to be a big blooming pink one called Alice Dupont,” he said. “It’s a big vining type and has been very popular.”
But because it’s a vining plant, Alice Dupont is more of a landscape plant. Though Alice Dupont thrives in heat and will take a lot of direct sunlight, it is too expansive to be grown in containers or on balcony gardens, Rodriguez said. Though a popular variety, it didn’t quality as a Texas Superstar because it wouldn’t survive winter conditions in many parts of the state or meet the needs of a wide array of gardeners.
“Over the last few years there has been a keen interest for small-scale patio garden or container gardening like on balconies,” he said. “What they’ve done is selected this one to be very compact. It doesn’t vine as much. It’s more of a bush so you don’t need a background trellis or structure to support it.”
The developers have also selected for three colors of the trumpet-shaped flowers, two shades of pink — one light, one hot pink — and deep red, Rodriguez said.
And because it is a sub-tropical plant like other Mandevillas, the Rio Series tolerates heat very well, he emphasized.
“They thrive in the heat of summer, but will benefit from some mid- to late-afternoon shade,” he said. “They will tolerate denser shade, but will actually try to twine and won’t flower as heavily when light becomes limited. Plants will tolerate substantial heat and some dryness, but regular water and fertilization keeps them at their best.”
The most recommended way to grow it is by putting it in a large container, preferably a 20- inch diameter one, using a premium potting mix that drains well.
“Gardeners might even consider using slow-release container fertilizer on it every three months,” he said. “A good one would be an 18-6-12 slow-release container fertilizer during the growth and blooming cycle.”
Rodriguez doesn’t recommend growing the Rio Series in the landscape, but it can be done, he said.
“We really think it looks much better as a container ornamental,” he said. “The foliage is very glossy, very shiny and attractive, which is another added feature. It would fit in with swimming pools plants, such as bougainvillea, Chinese hibiscus, ixora and allamanda to work with a Hawaiian or tropical scheme, give you real beautiful color from mid to late spring throughout the summer time to late fall.
“It does stand alone by itself or a lot of people are blending combination of planters putting an assortment of color in there. Its large trumpet shape-flowers attract hummingbirds as well as butterflies.”
The Rio Series’ only downside is that it is tropical so it will need some winter protection throughout most of the state, he said.
“Some people might grow it as a seasonal annual throughout the state and replant it on a yearly basis but some people will protect it and bring it into a hot house, greenhouse environment to protect it,” Rodriguez said.
Wholesale Growers can purchase plants from Syngenta Horticultural Services. More product and contact information can be found on the company’s website at http://www.sg-flowers-us.com/.
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/.