Plants of Merit 2020

Every year since 1998, the Missouri Botanical Garden has partnered with other regional horticultural institutions to select Plants of Merit. Plants of Merit are chosen for outstanding quality and dependable performance in Missouri, southern and central Illinois, and the Kansas City metro area. To qualify as a Plant of Merit, the plants must be easy to grow, noninvasive, ornamentally attractive, less susceptible to common problems like insects or diseases, and reasonably available to purchase.

Annuals

Sage, Salvia ‘Balsalmisp’ MYSTIC SPIRES BLUE

This variety of sage’s bright blue flowers bloom continuously, summer through fall, attracting hummingbirds, butterflies, and other insect pollinators. 

Bulbs

Shooting Star, Dodecatheon meadia

This beloved native Missouri wildflower blooms in late spring and comes in a variety of colors, ranging from white to pink and light purple. Each flower has five swept-back petals and a cluster of yellow stamens converging to the point, giving it the appearance of a shooting star plummeting to Earth.

Snake’s head fritillary, Fritillaria meleagris

Also called the checked lily, Snake’s head fritillary blooms in April and produces 2 inch-long bell-shaped flowers that are checked and veined with reddish-brown, purple, white and gray. In the right environment, Fritillaria meleagris will live long and naturalize well.

Edibles

Eggplant, Solanum melongena ‘Patio Baby’

This compact, thornless, productive cultivar of eggplant that only reaches around 2 feet tall with an equal spread. The glossy, dark purple fruits have thin skins and reach around 2-3″ long. Patio baby is ready for harvest in 45 days.

Houseplants

Moses-in-a-basket, Tradescantia spathacea ‘Vittata’

This cultivar of Moses-in-a-basket features green and yellow stripes on the upper side of the foliage and deep purple undersides. Small, white flowers bloom in clusters from round, folded bracts. In St. Louis, it is also easily grown as a house plant.

Perennials

Ornamental onion, Allium ‘Millenium’

‘Millennium’ is a hybrid ornamental onion that blooms in mid to late summer. The flowers are suitable for fresh cut arrangements. Although all parts of this plant have an oniony smell and taste when cut or bruised, this hybrid is considered to be an ornamental and is not used for culinary purposes.

Pale purple coneflower, Echinacea pallida 

This adaptable plant that is tolerant of drought, heat, humidity and poor soils. The pale purple coneflower produces daisy-like flowers with drooping, pale pinkish-purple petals that are attractive to butterflies. It blooms in late June to late July and plants usually rebloom without deadheading.

Blue-eyed grass, Sisyrinchium angustifolium

This Missouri native is noted for its violet-blue blues and branched flowering stems. Despite its name, blue-eyed grass actually belongs to the iris family, not the grass family. Blue-eyed grass makes an excellent ground cover and will freely self-seed in optimum growing conditions.

Shrubs

Oakleaf hydrangea, Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Ruby Slippers’

A fairly new cultivar,  ‘Ruby Slippers’ was introduced into commerce in 2010 by the U. S. National Arboretum.It is a cross between ‘Snow Queen’ and ‘Pee Wee’ oak leaf hydrangea cultivars, is a compact plant that blooms in late spring. Flowers emerge white, but quickly turn pink before finally maturing to ruby red. Ruby slippers can provide year round interest in your garden, with its deep green leaves turning attractive shades of mahogany red in fall. In winter, mature stems exfoliate to reveal a rich brown inner bark.

Alabama snow wreath, Neviusia alabamensis 

Although considered a Missouri native, Alabama snow wreath may now be extinct in the state, having last been observed in the wild in 1918 near Poplar Bluff.

In yards, Alabama snow wreath is often used as a hedge or in rain gardens. Flowers bloom in clusters, each with fluffy clumps of white stamen, in April-May. Flowers give way to somewhat inconspicuous fruits that mature in early fall.

Sassafras, Sassafras albidum

Another Missouri native, Sassafras albidum, is an ornamental, small to medium-sized deciduous tree that flowers from April to May. Attractive greenish-yellow flowers appear in clusters. On female trees, flowers give away to bluish-black berries that are borne in a scarlet cup-like receptacles on scarlet stalks. Fruits mature in September. Trees are deer tolerant. 


Catherine Martin
Public Information Officer

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