LOXLEY, Ala. – Three plants from the Southern Living Plant Collection have been honored with the FlameProof award from the Dallas Arboretum Plant Trials. Each year, the Dallas Arboretum Plant Trials program tests thousands of plant varieties in search of those that thrive in the scorching heat of a Texas summer. Only those plants that score exceptionally high under the extreme conditions are awarded the FlameProof designation.
“Our perennial program not only looks at leaf color, vigor, floral stalk, and flowering uniformity (if applicable), but the ability to stay alive for three years and look good doing it,” said Megan Proska, plant trials manager at the Dallas Arboretum and Botanical Garden. “Since we have them in the ground for three years, we can really see how they do going from a new planting to established.”
This year, Southern Living Plant Collection’s ‘Sunshine’ Ligustrum, Mood Ring Podocarpus, and ‘Lemon Lime’ Nandina received the coveted FlameProof award. With evergreen foliage, these three heat-loving shrubs not only flourish through hot tropical summers, but look good all year long.
“To be worthy of the Southern Living name, all of our plant introductions offer improvements over traditional varieties,” said Kip McConnell, director of Plant Development Services, Inc., introducers of the Southern Living Plant Collection. “These varieties are among many in our collection that thrive in the hot, humid summers of the deep South and demonstrate superior landscape performance.”
Extending that heat tolerance to the dry Texas climate is no small feat, where temperatures commonly soar over 100 degrees in summer and rain patterns swing between drought and torrential rains. Plants in the trial gardens receive care similar to what a homeowner might provide, including overhead irrigation about twice per week.
“The FlameProof award is testament to the rigorous selection process we put our collection through,” said McConnell.
The Southern Living Plant Collection is composed of innovative plants selected for their ability to solve specific landscape challenges. In addition to heat tolerance, plants are evaluated for hardiness, pest-resistance, and improved ornamental characteristics. For example, ‘Sunshine’ Ligustrum offers distinctive golden hues and tackles a number of traditional privet problems. This non-flowering cultivar is sterile and compact, making it non-invasive and allergen-free.
The other FlameProof award winners offer similar improvements over traditional varieties. ‘Lemon Lime’ Nandina stands apart for its compact size and lush, chartreuse foliage that brightens landscapes. With deer and drought resistance, Mood Ring Podocarpus provides a low-maintenance mainstay for privacy screens and hedges. Attractive bronzy-pink new growth and a more manageable size offer a modern twist on this Southern classic.
Top photo: ‘Sunshine’ Ligustrum