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Pink Flare hibiscus might be too gaudy for some, but not Texas

New Pink Flare and Peppermint Flare varieties named 2010 Texas Superst

July 12, 2010

Writer(s):

Robert Burns, 903-834-6191, rd-burns@tamu.edu

Contact(s):

Dr. Brent Pemberton, 903-834-6191, b-pemberton@tamu.edu

COLLEGE STATION — In the mid-1990s, Dr. Sam McFadden of Somerville, Tenn., a well-known plant breeder, developed a hibiscus whose color he didn’t like, one whose gaudiness actually embarrassed him a bit, according to a Texas AgriLife Research horticulturist.

The best he could do was say it was the same color seen when a road flare is struck at night: a brilliant, hot florescent fuchsia, said Dr. Brent Pemberton, AgriLife Research scientist and chair of the Texas Superstar executive board.

But what might have been too gaudy for Tennessee would play well in Texas, especially in the southwest part of the state where blindingly bright sun washes out more subtle colors, decided Texas Superstar board members.

Texas AgriLife Extension Service and Texas AgriLife Researchers extensively test and designate plants as Texas Superstars that are not just beautiful but perform well for Texas consumers and growers. They also must be easy to propagate, which should insure that the plants are not only widely available throughout Texas but reasonably priced too, he said.

In 1998, Flare along with Moy Grande, a red hibiscus variety with 12-inch diameter blooms, and Lord Baltimore, another red variety, were named Texas Superstars. All three became popular thanks to promotional efforts, Pemberton said.

But since 1998, two new colors, Pink Flare and Peppermint Flare, were found and named Texas Superstars for 2010.

But why name a variety as Texas Superstar a second time? Because the original Flare was not pink. It was fluorescent red, giving Texas gardeners further options for landscape design, Pemberton said.

Though the colors of its sister plant, Peppermint Flare, are more subdued, it is directly related to the same “mother” Flare variety that was nearly abandoned to obscurity in Tennessee because it was too scarlet. Peppermint Flare is true to its name, resembling a huge peppermint candy, only streams of fluorescent red in the center reveals the family ties to its more flamboyant sister, he said.

Like most hibiscus varieties, Pink Flare and Peppermint Flare are easy to grow, Pemberton said. Though the blooms grow 8 inches to 10 inches in diameter, the plants themselves remain relatively small, about 4 feet — what horticulturists call “dwarfy.”

Though dwarfy above-ground, hibiscus plants have an extensive root system, which means they can be grown all over Texas and survive the winter without mulching, he noted.

They are easy to grow and able to thrive with a modest amount of added nutrients. “It does well in any soil type,” Pemberton said.

The plants are also practically sterile, not producing seed, which encourages a “luxuriant” re-blooming, he said.

By practically sterile, it’s meant they produce seeds but only rarely, he explained.

Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by Texas AgriLife Research. More information about the Texas Superstar program can be found at http://texassuperstar.com/ .

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