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THE GARDEN GUY: Vibrant Superbenas are perfect for spring

by Norman Winter, Tribune News Service | March 18, 2023 at 1:31 a.m.
Mezoo Trailing Red Livingstone daisy is a tough as nails succulent ground cover, or exotic spiller for containers or baskets. Here it shows its wonderful contrast with magenta-colored petunias. (Norman Winter via TNS)

Right now, it is a verbena world at The Garden Guy's house. It is super exciting, as I forgot I had so many, and which containers had what. The growth since the December arctic blast has been simply amazing. One in particular, Superbena Imperial Blue, almost looks like a mini-hydrangea.

Superbena Imperial Blue made its debut in 2022, and I was part of the testing process in 2021. I've loved it for its intense color, which screams deep blue. I say that full well knowing some of you will correct me and say you see purple tones. That's OK. This verbena has been a champ each year with butterflies like the eastern tiger swallowtail, spicebush swallowtail and the treasured pipevine swallowtail. I have had the American lady, Gulf fritillary and ruby-throated hummingbird, too.

I put my containers in the garage during the cold wave and then put them back on my wall. The old guy couldn't remember which containers had what from the standpoint of color. Also kind of funny was I forgot what the dormant sticks were behind the wall.

First off, I was surprised I had placed Superbena Imperial Blue in proximity to Double Play Candy Corn spirea. This is going to cause great joy with my Louisiana State University horticulture buddies.

  photo  This window planter recipe called Tracy's Garden features Goldilocks Rocks bidens, Superbells Red calibrachoa, Luscious Royale Red Zone lantana, Superbena Red and Superbena Violet Ice verbenas, Truffula Pink gomphrena and the Mezoo Trailing Red Livingstone daisy at the bottom. As you can tell the widow box is a complete garden. (Chris Brown Photography via TNS)
Then a large container with Superbena Imperial Blue found its position in proximity to Double Take Scarlet flowering quince, as well as both red and white azaleas. It is a feast for the eyes.

Superbena Imperial Blue, like most of the other Superbenas, will get 5 to 12 inches tall with a spread of 30 inches. They need fertile, well-drained soil and plenty of sunlight to reach their true performance potential. For the most part, Superbenas are considered an annual, and one certainly of exceptional value.

I live in zone 8a, and in my zone and warmer we get them to return in the spring, which causes the perennial happy dance to break out. (Arkansas is in zones 6, 7 and 8, with most of the state in zone 7.) Superbena Imperial Blue, Superbena Whiteout and Superbena Stormburst have been good perennials for me. This year I also have Superbena Plum Wine returning. Strangely, all these are in containers. They are way ahead of those in the soil.

The key to this is good soil drainage, which is easy-peasy in a container. Son James and I both are firm believers in cutting the verbena back periodically to keep rejuvenating growth and new blooms coming. It also helps to minimize chances for spider mites and lace bugs to have a fatal infestation.

  photo  This large container features Rockin' Blue Suede Shoes salvia, Uproar Rose Zinnia, Luscious Marmalade lantana and Mezoo Trailing Red Livingstone daisy tumbling over the rim. (Norman Winter via TNS)
So, to put it another way, if you leave a huge patch of weak foliage because you still have a couple of blossoms, you are not helping the plant. Cut it back, and new growth will resume quickly, followed by blooms.

There are 17 varieties to be found in the Superbena (most vigorous), Superbena Royale (slightly compact, less spread) and Superbena Sparkling (bicolored) groups. Make sure you try the Superbenas in baskets or taller pots, too, as the off-the-ground or aerial-like aspect, coupled with cascading flowers, is an easy attraction for the hummingbirds.

Superbenas may have a funny sounding name to you, but it is just Proven Winners' way of saying that these are Super Verbenas.

Norman Winter is a horticulturist, garden speaker and author of "Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South" and "Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden."


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