Karen Cambre, Sharpe, Kenneth W.
News article for April 22, 2019:
I have often heard that “April showers bring May flowers”. While we usually think about the majority of our flowers blooming in March, when azaleas are typically in full bloom, we can have our share of late spring flowers with proper selection.
Since Mother’s Day is in early May you might have noted that you see a lot of hydrangeas, gardenias and magnolias in bloom that time of year.
We usually have hydrangeas starting to bloom about the first week in May and it is one of those very impressive plants with large blooms. This makes hydrangea a great selection as a Mother’s Day gift. Hydrangea is a deciduous shrub that will perform best in partial sun. Blooms are usually blue in our native acid soils but may be pink if the soil is more alkaline. You can change the bloom color from pink to blue by adding ¼ cup of aluminum sulfate around each plant and repeat again in 6 months. To get pink flowers from a plant that produces blue ones now add 2 to 3 tablespoons of lime around each plant. Expect your color changes next year.
One of the Louisiana Super Plant selections for 2012 was the Penny Mac hydrangea which is very adaptable to Louisiana growing conditions and a proven performer.It has large round mophead flowers. The main crop is in May but it is a repeat bloomer and you should have some flowers into the fall.
Hydrangeas work well as a specimen plant, as a border and in mass plantings.
Gardenias are another May bloomer and a very fragrant one. You may know this plant by its old southern garden name, Cape jasmine. It is a dark glossy green evergreen shrub that has white fragrant flowers in May.
The older varieties could be considered small trees or large shrubs exceeding 8 feet in height. A smaller variety is Frostproof, which was a Louisiana Super Plant winner in 2011 and still is a reliable producer.It has a natural mound shape that can be maintained at a much smaller size and without pruning will mature at 5 feet tall x 4 feet wide. It has smaller leaves than other gardenias and will be medium to fine in texture. As you can tell from the name, Frostproof is more cold hardy than the average gardenia. It will produce a main crop of fragrant blooms in May but will allow you to enjoy periodic blooms throughout the rest of the growing season.
Magnolias are the Louisiana state flower and they are ready for blooming in May through June. Southern magnolias are a large evergreen tree that have an average height of 40 feet with a width of 25 feet, but can reach 100’ x 50’. They produce large, white flowers that are 6 to 8 inches across with 6 to 12 petals. Those flowers are also fragrant but be careful not to get your nose too close as the flowers are very attractive to bees.
Southern magnolias that are grown from seedlings take 7 to 10 years before they slow down their growth and start to bloom. For those in a bigger hurry for blooms and maybe not such a large specimen try the ‘Little Gem’ magnolia. It is more compact and upright but can get 25 -30 feet tall. It produces lots of blooms at an early age and sporadically throughout the growing season. The leaves are small, only 4 inches, but are an attractive glossy dark green on top and bronze underneath.
If you need some more early summer flowers check out Agapanthus, which some people call Lily of the Nile. They come in white, blue and purple.
Day lilies are also a nice border plant to line a side walk or make a pathway. They come in an array of colors and sizes.
April showers do bring May flowers if you plant the right ones.