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.
Learn more about Plants of Merit and how they are selected in this episode of the A Way to Garden podcast with New York Times Columnist Margaret Roach and Garden Horticulturist Daria McKelvey:
Begonia ‘Canary Wing’
‘Canary Wing’ is a hybrid, cane-like begonia selection that features glossy, colorful foliage and a showy display of red blooms. Mature plants will reach up to 18 inches tall with a similar spread, taking on a mounding to trailing growth habit perfect for a container or hanging basket. The foliage emerges golden yellow before maturing to chartreuse.
Begonia ‘Canary Wing.’ Hanging basket and closeup of flowers.
Ornamental pepper, Capsicum annuum ‘Onyx Red’
‘Onyx Red’ is a compact, well-branched selection of ornamental pepper that features dark purple, nearly black foliage, purple flowers, and small, round fruits that mature from black to red. It can be massed or used as a colorful addition to containers and sunny border edges.
‘Onyx Red’ is shown used as a border at left. At right, fruits can be seen maturing from black to bright red.
Elephant’s ear, Colocasia esculenta ‘Blue Hawaii’
‘Blue Hawaii’ is a vigorous elephant ear selection that features one–two-foot long, medium-green leaves with contrasting purple leaf stems and veins. The leaf margins are also slightly wavy. Mature plants can reach up to three feet tall with a two-foot spread. This plant will add tropical flare to water features, mixed borders, or large containers.
Colocasia esculenta ‘Blue Hawaii’
Pink, Dianthus DIAMOND SCARLET IMPROVED
This is a floriferous and compact selection of bedding dianthus that creates a carpet of fragrant, 1.5-inch-wide, bright red flowers in late spring. Plants will reach up to 6 inches tall and 8 inches wide with a uniform, bushy habit and upright stems. Deadhead to encourage reblooming through the rest of the growing season.
Dianthus DIAMOND SCARLET IMPROVED
Golden dewdrop, Duranta erecta ‘Cuban Gold’
‘Cuban Gold’ is a low-growing selection of golden dewdrop that features chartreuse to golden yellow foliage and a well-branched, spreading to mounding habit. While many golden dewdrops are grown for their blue flowers and orange berries, this cultivar is primarily grown for its colorful foliage. Duranta erecta ‘Cuban Gold’ is great as a border edger or massed.
Duranta erecta ‘Cuban Gold’
Devil’s tongue, Amorphophallus konjac
Commonly called devil’s tongue, konjaku, or voodoo lily, mature plants produce a three–four-foot tall inflorescence with a dark maroon, ruffled spathe surrounding a spike-like spadix from an underground corm. Like its famous relative the corpse flower (Amorphophallus titanum), the inflorescence emits a strong odor of rotten flesh.
Amorphophallus konjac is shown in bloom at left. At right is an image of the foliage.
Large-cupped daffodil, Narcissus ‘Carlton’
This early-to-mid-season, large-cupped daffodil features two-toned yellow blooms with a light vanilla fragrance atop 18-20″ tall stems.
Rosemary, Salvia rosmarinus ‘Blue Rain’
‘Blue Rain’ is a low-growing, trailing selection of rosemary that features small, blue flowers over a long bloom period. Mature plants will reach eight inches tall and spread to fill a two-foot area. This rosemary is perfect for containers, the top of a retaining wall, or as an edger in rock gardens, herb gardens, or mixed borders.
Salvia rosmarinus ‘Blue Rain’
Philodendron ‘Winterbourn‘ XANADU
‘Winterbourn’ is a hybrid philodendron grown for its glossy, deeply lobed foliage and compact, spreading to mounding habit. Mature plants will reach around four feet tall with a five-foot spread. In tropical areas, this plant can be massed to create a coarse ground cover or used as an accent specimen in mixed borders. In colder climates, it is a popular houseplant.
Philodendron ‘Winterbourn’ XANADU
Hellebore, Helleborus ‘Confetti Cake’
The pendulous, white double blooms of this cultivar have dark pink speckles which emanate out from the center of the two-to-three-inch-wide wide flowers. Mature clumps will reach around two feet tall with an equal spread.
Helleborus ‘Confetti Cake’
Meadow sage, Salvia nemorosa ‘Wesuwe’
‘Wesuwe’ features dense, upright spikes of small, purple flowers from summer into early fall. The blooms attract butterflies, bees, and other pollinators. Mature plants will reach up to 1.5 feet tall with a two-foot spread.
Salvia nemorosa ‘Wesuwe’
Rough goldenrod, Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks’
This selection of one of our native goldenrods features arching panicles of small, bright yellow flowers from September into October. Plants will reach around 3.5 feet tall and slowly spread by non-aggressive rhizomes to fill a three-foot area.
Solidago rugosa ‘Fireworks.’ Despite a common misconception, goldenrod is not at fault for fall allergies; ragweed, which blooms at a similar time and also sports yellowish flowers, is the true culprit.
Hibiscus SUMMERIFIC HOLY GRAIL
SUMMERIFIC HOLY GRAIL is a purple-leaved selection of hardy hibiscus with sturdy, upright stems that produce large, deep red blooms in late summer. Mature plants will reach up to 4.5 feet tall with a five-foot spread.
Hibiscus SUMMERIFIC HOLY GRAIL
Eastern redbud, Cercis canadensis ‘Appalachian Red’
Discovered growing on a Maryland roadside, the clusters of small, fuchsia-pink blooms on this redbud selection set it apart from the rest. The heart-shaped leaves emerge after the flowers and exhibit a good, yellow fall color.
The flowers on Cercis canadensis ‘Appalachian Red’ are a much brighter, richer fuchsia than most redbud blooms.
Sourwood, Oxydendrum arboreum
Commonly found growing on rocky, wooded slopes in the Appalachian Mountains, this small to medium-sized tree is right at home among rhododendrons, azaleas, and other members of the Ericaceae family that prefer acidic soils. Drooping clusters of small, white flowers give way to persistent seed capsules. The fall color is spectacular, ranging from yellow-orange to crimson red.
At left, the Oxydendrum arboreum tree is seen in its full form; its brilliant fall color and spring blooms are shown at right.
Butterfly Pea, Clitoria ternatea
Commonly called butterfly pea, this climbing vine has slender stems and showy, two-inch-wide, bright blue flowers. The flowers can be used to impart a blue color to various foods and beverages.
If you are looking to add even more to your yard or garden, you can find additional tried and true Plants of Merit from the past several years here on our blog:
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