The new Texas Superstar guide to strong and stunning plants for Texans, created by Texas A&M AgriLife Research, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas Department of Agriculture, is now being distributed throughout the state.

The 2020 Texas Superstar brochure is available online. Hard copies are being sent to AgriLife Extension offices around the state, through regional and county Master Gardener programs, and they are available by request.

Texas Superstar guide cover
The updated Texas Superstar guide is available online and at local AgriLife Extension offices around the state.

To be designated a Texas Superstar, a plant must be beautiful  and perform well for consumers and growers throughout the state. Superstars must be easy to propagate, which should ensure the plants are not only widely available throughout Texas but also reasonably priced.

A nine-person board chooses plants for Texas Superstar marketing campaigns. The Texas Superstar Executive Board is made up of a variety of AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and Texas Tech University experts specializing in fields of horticulture, plant physiology and other disciplines.

Input from board members, county horticulturists, arboretum and botanical garden personnel, horticultural writers and landscape designers is considered during the selection process.

Brent Pemberton, Ph.D., AgriLife Research horticulturist in Overton, said the new brochure represents a collective effort between the state agencies and the landscape and nursery industry to provide information to help industry professionals and the gardening public make sound, science-based decisions about the products.

“It’s become an important educational tool for industry folks and the public and for our Master Gardeners around the state who go out there and provide informational programs,” he said.

The Texas Superstar program began as a regional program in the early 1980s and became a statewide effort in 1989. The name Texas Superstar was coined in 1997. The designation was applied to all the statewide promotions and has been used ever since.

The newest brochure features dozens of Texas Superstar selections and provides recommendations for gardeners to create the best environment for those plants to perform.

Brochure is go-to source

Scott Sroufe, the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Go Texan marketing coordinator, Austin, said the Texas Superstar program continues to be an incredibly successful way to promote ornamental varieties that perform best in the Lone Star State. The Texas Superstar brochure itself has become the go-to source for growers, amateur gardeners, nurseries and retailers and is an incredibly valuable reference for landscape industry professionals.

Sroufe said landscape companies use the brochure to help homeowners, especially those who have moved to Texas from other regions of the U.S., identify plant varieties that perform best here.

“Landscape companies have customers who want to plant varieties they planted in California and Florida or Wisconsin and were not having success,” he said. “They hand them the brochure, and that gives the homeowners a wide range of ornamental plants to pick from that they can rely on and enjoy.”

The brochure is typically updated every two to four years, Sroufe said. The department distributed more than 40,000 copies of the 18-page 2016 version of the Texas Superstar brochure over its four-year run. The brochure continues to be funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant.

The 2020 printing includes 40 pages featuring just under 80 ornamental plant varieties designated as Texas Superstars, he said.

“We send copies to nurseries and retailers interested in distributing the brochure and typically hand out thousands of them at landscape and gardening expos around the state,” he said. “COVID-19 is a challenge, but we want to do everything we can to make sure the updated brochure gets into the hands of professionals and amateurs who want and need them.”

Texas Superstars set the standard

Amy Graham, Texas Nursery and Landscape Association president, Austin, said industry growers, landscapers and ultimately the public rely on the efforts of AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension to determine how plants will perform around the state and in what conditions they perform best.

“We know these plants are Texas tough as a result of what AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension provide the industry,” Graham said. “Industry professionals know they can rely on a plant when they see the Texas Superstar label.”

She said years of rigorous plant trials that certify plants as a Texas Superstar helps set a standard and differentiate new plants and reintroduce previously overlooked selections. The program gives direction for growers and a marketing tool for growers with highlighted plants.

Graham said partnerships with AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension, Texas Tech University and the Texas Department of Agriculture make the industry stronger, and the success of the Texas Superstar program highlights that cooperation.

“We want to see the science behind products we take positions on,” she said. “Our industry and ultimately our customers rely on experts, and when ornamental and landscape plants test well across the state, we take notice.”

Pemberton said the program has evolved and flourished because of these cooperative efforts.

“It’s a program that I think everyone is very proud of, and one that we all can see the positive impact it makes for growers, the nurseries and the consumers,” he said.

Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by AgriLife Research, a state agency that is part of the Texas A&M University System. A list of wholesalers and retailers who stock Texas Superstar plants and labels is also available online.

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