Black Stockings napier grass is the newest Texas Superstar in recognition of its resilience in hot, dry conditions and striking presence and broad use in Lone Star landscapes, according to a Texas A&M AgriLife Research expert.
Black Stockings has beautiful, wide deep purple leaves, which reflex on a vase-shaped plant that stands out in most landscapes.
It’s not a flowering plant, but commands attention in landscapes, said Brent Pemberton, Ph.D., AgriLife Research ornamental specialist, Overton.
Pemberton said it is similar in appearance to Princess Caroline napier grass but grows much taller. Plants grow to 8-12 feet tall, depending on the amount of watering and growing season length.
Black Stockings can be used as a standalone specimen plant or to accent mixed borders and can serve as a fast-growing screen or background plant, he said. Full sun exposure is best for leaf color development.
Black Stockings is very heat and drought tolerant and can be perennial in some portions of Texas, Pemberton said. Plants also can be perennial further north if planted in a protected location, but it is typically considered an annual in North Texas and the High Plains.
“The plants are very fast growing so they perform well as an annual,” he said. “Whether it’s one season or multiple seasons, Black Stockings napier grass is a good addition to landscapes as a screen or border plant that can be used to accentuate other ornamentals and add depth to the design.”
To be designated a Texas Superstar, a plant must perform well for growers throughout the state. Texas Superstars must also be easy to propagate, ensuring the plants are widely available and reasonably priced.
Black Stocking requires minimal care
Pemberton said well-established Black Stockings plants handle Texas summers well and require very little attention.
Black Stockings is best planted in the spring to ensure good establishment by summer, he said. It can be planted in summer from large containers but will require more water until the plant establishes.
Pemberton said the amount of water the plant receives heavily influences its rate of growth and eventual height, but that Black Stockings can get by on very little water in summer conditions.
Plants are adapted to any well drained soil, Pemberton said. Very little fertilizer is needed for the plant to perform well, and nitrogen fertilizer causes leaves to green up and lose their striking purple color.
“Fertilizer is really not necessary,” he said. “If you do, it doesn’t take much and it’s best to go with a product that is light on nitrogen if you want that bold, purple color.”
Black Stockings is not as cold hardy as Princess Caroline but is resistant to leaf spot that can be seen in older varieties.
Cut dead plant vegetation back to the ground after fall frost and plants will make rapid growth in the spring in milder areas of the state.
Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by AgriLife Research, a state agency that is part of the Texas A&M University System. Plants are designated Texas Superstars by the Texas Superstar executive board, which is made up of nine horticulturalists from AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and Texas Tech University.