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10 Great Landscape Plants - Illusion® Midnight Lace

These 10 plants should be great in landscapes in almost any climate. They were chosen to be heat tolerant, to need limited to no supplemental water and to be easy to care for with no deadheading needed.

Contributors: Kerry Meyer

These 10 plants should be great in landscapes in almost any climate. They were chosen to be heat tolerant, to need limited to no supplemental water and to be easy to care for with no deadheading needed.

I really wanted to call this series of articles "10 Plants Every Gardener Should Try in the Landscape," but this seemed a bit long for a title.  Whatever you call them, these 10 plants should be great in landscapes in almost any climate.  They were chosen to be heat tolerant, to need limited to no supplemental water and to be easy to care for with no deadheading needed.  I've grown them all (most of them repeatedly) and love them!

  1. Artist® Blue Ageratum
  2. Lo & Behold® 'Blue Chip' Buddleia
  3. Senorita Rosalita® Cleome
  4. Graceful Grasses® King Tut® Cyperus
  5. Diamond Frost® Euphorbia
  6. Dolce® Blackcurrant Heuchera
  7. Illusion® Midnight Lace Ipomoea
  8. Luscious® Citrus Blend Lantana
  9. Snow Princess® Lobularia
  10. Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia

So often when we think of color in the garden or landscape we focus solely on flowers.  While flowers certainly deserve the lion's share of the attention, we shouldn't overlook the role that colored foliage can play in the garden.  Flowers can sometime be fleeting, but foliage color is there all-season long.  While colored foliage can be the star of the game, it more often functions as a contrast to a flowering plant.

While interesting foliage abounds, if you are looking for it, there are three classes of plants that probably come to mind first when foliage is mentioned as a plants main feature: coleus, sweet potato vines and ornamental grasses.  The great news is that all three classes of plants can be great garden performers.  Coleus comes in more colors than ever before, the newer plants tend to be sun and shade performers and they are late to flower - which helps the foliage to remain vibrant.  Ornamental grasses come in the widest range out of these three categories.  They can be annual or perennial, some flower and others don't, a variety of textures are represented and a wide array of foliage colors are also available.  You can probably find an ornamental grass for almost any spot you have in your garden.  This brings us to sweet potato vines (Ipomoea), which have been around for decades and can be real garden workhorses (photo upper right, University of Guelph).

Older varieties of sweet potato vines were super vigorous and a bit thugish in landscapes or containers.  Recently, plant breeders have been working hard to improve sweet potato vines.  They have made advances in colors - black/purple and chartreuse were the original colors, but red and bronze are now available.  Leaf shapes have also increased to include heart shaped and palmate (looks like a hand with fingers) leaves in several different sizes in all of the different colors.  However, the biggest advance may be the newer varieties that have more controlled growth habits.  If you want an annual plant to fill as much space as possible as quickly as possible, the old standby Ipomoea are the way to go.  If you want a plant that plays well with others, then the newer varieties are your best bet (photo at left, California).

In my opinion, Illusion® Midnight Lace and her sister Illusion® Emerald Lace are the perfect end result of this breeding focus.  Illusion® Midnight Lace has finely cut, lacy, palmate foliage.  She is densely branched, with a compact habit and she plays well with others.  I had one person tell me that she loved this plant because it was always moving in the breeze.  Movement is an often overlooked element, but adds a lot to the garden.  She will work in combination planters, where she is less likely to overrun other plants than almost any other sweet potato vine (Illusion® Emerald Lace in photo lower right, Missouri). 

Illusion® Midnight Lace is also an excellent landscape plant.  In the landscape, she will create a dense ground cover.  The dark foliage is a great contrast to lighter foliaged plants.  She is low maintenance, with little needed other than a bit of supplemental water if it gets very dry.  If she does start getting out of hand, she can be trimmed back at any time.  She has few pest problems and her thick, waxy foliage always looks nice. 

At least a few times a year, I get asked if ornamental sweet potatoes are edible.  They are edible as long as you haven't used chemicals on them that could harm you.  However, they are unlikely to be as tasty as sweet potatoes chosen as food crops.  Ornamental sweet potatoes are likely to be both stringy and dry, but they are edible.

Vital Stats

Type:  Annual

Sun/Shade:  It prefers full sun to partial shade - a minimum of 4 hours of direct sun a day

Height:  Short, 6-10 inches

Spacing:  10 to 12 inches

Habit:  Spiller - Trails over the side of a container

Bloom Time:  Grown for the foliage

Artist® Blue Ageratum hybrid 'Agsantis' USPP15,289, Can. 2050; Lo & Behold® 'Blue Chip' Buddleia hybrid USPP19,991, CPBRAF; Senorita Rosalita® Cleome hybrid 'Inncleosr' USPP19,733, Can. 3290; Diamond Frost® Euphorbia 'Inneuphdia' USPP17,567, Can. 2830; Dolce® Blackcurrant Heuchera hybrid 'PWHeu0109' USPP19,574, Can. 3774; Illusion Midnight Lace Ipomoea batatas 'NCORNSP-011MDNTLC' USPPAF, CPBRAF; Luscious® Citrus Blend Lantana camara '2003.301' USPP19,706; Snow Princess Lobularia hybrid 'Inlbusnopr' USPPAF, CPBRAF; Supertunia® Vista Bubblegum Petunia hybrid 'USTUNI6001' USPP17,730, Can. 2871

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