Researchers designate ornamental grass a Texas Superstar

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A student worker at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton poses with Princess Caroline Napier grass in the center’s ornamental demonstration garden. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns)

A student worker at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Overton poses with Princess Caroline Napier grass in the center’s ornamental demonstration garden. (Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service photo by Robert Burns)

Like true royalty, Princess Caroline Napier grass is beautiful and elegant in its own right, while bringing out the best in its companions, according to Dr. Cynthia McKenney, professor of ornamental horticulture at Texas Tech University and a Texas Superstar board member.  “It’s something you can use in the back of the garden to give some height, purple color and interesting texture.”

Texas Superstar plants undergo extensive tests throughout the state by Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturists.  To be designated a Texas Superstar, a plant must not just be beautiful but also perform well for consumers and growers throughout Texas.  Superstars must also be easy to propagate, which should ensure the plants are not only widely available throughout Texas, but also reasonably priced.

In most of the state, the roots will survive – even after freezes kill the plant to the ground – and will grow back in the spring without replanting.  But because Princess Caroline is not a dependable perennial in US Department of Agriculture’s plant hardiness zones 6 and 7, which includes Clay County and parts of the Rolling Plains, it would best be treated as an annual.  But, according to McKenney, it grows so fast, gardeners can still get the full height of the plant early in the season.

Princess Caroline fills the requirements for Texas Superstar for a number of reasons.  The plant grows 4 to 6 feet tall, depending on amount of water it’s given and length of the growing season.  “Its rapid growth and bold appearance make it a showstopper in any planting,” McKenney said.  Princess Caroline is resistant to leaf spot disease and is very heat and drought tolerant, according to the official Texas Superstar board description.

The foliage is a nice purple color, and that’s one of the features many homeowners enjoy because then they can put some orange or yellow flowers in front of it and get some really stark contrast.

Because Princess Caroline is a fairly large plant, gardeners will want to cluster several in a location, about 3 feet apart.

It does best with limited fertilizer.  Too much fertilizer produces excessive growth, which tends to cause the loss of the purple color.  The leaves have a nice soft feeling and don’t have the sharp edges that would be felt on a pampas grass.  The leaves weep down gracefully giving them a soft look.

McKenney said Princess Caroline should be widely available throughout the state thanks to Texas Superstar promotions to commercial bedding plant growers and outlets.  Including Princess Caroline in a garden should make a significant statement that won’t cost very much time or money.

More information about the Texas Superstar program can be found at http://www.texassuperstar.com.  Or, for more information about this topic, contact the A&M AgriLife Extension office, Clay County, at (940) 538-5042.

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Pioneer Sentinel

The Pioneer Sentinel is an online newspaper designed to deliver the news of Clay County, Texas, in a concise and community-friendly format.

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