January 2018

Indiana gardeners name the best new plants in their gardens

‘Fierce Gigante’ elephant ear easily reaches 5 feet tall or more in a summer. Photo courtesy Irvin Etienne/

Pretty soon, new plants will beckon to us from newspapers and magazines, catalogs and the benches at garden centers: “Try me!” “Try me!”

To help guide our plant lust, I checked with some of my favorite gardeners throughout the state, asking what the best new or sort-of-new plant they’d grown. I also asked what plants they thought were under used or under appreciated by gardeners, and we’ll have that next week. For the new plants:

A big elephant ear from Plants Nouveau, ‘Fierce Gigante’ (Colocasia) easily reaches 5 feet tall when given ample moisture and rich, said Irvin Etienne, horticultural display coordinator at the Indianapolis Museum of Art, and guru of all things tropical. “I thought the beautiful foliage would be its only asset, but the flowers turned out fabulous – big, creamy calla-like flowers on purple stems. My favorite new colocasia.”

‘Masterpiece’ is appreciated as much for its tasty tendrils as its pod and peas.
Photo courtesy National Garden Bureau/

Carol Michel, an avid vegetable gardener in Indianapolis who blogs at, picked ‘Masterpiece’ pea from Burpee. “It was easy to grow in a container and both the pods and the peas are edible, as are the tendrils. The tendrils are also frilly, and make a nice edition to flower arrangements.”

Tiny Tuff Stuff hydrangea is a winner in an Indianapolis Master Gardener’s landscape. Photo courtesy

Karen Kennedy, a former president of Marion County Master Gardeners, said she’s taken with several newish hydrangea introductions that have replaced a large Endless Summer (H. macrophylla ‘Bailmer’). Newly planted are ‘Tiny Tuff Stuff’ (H. serrata ‘Makd’), Bobo (H. paniculata ‘Ilvobo’) and Little Quick Fire (H. paniculata ‘Smhplqf’). “All three performed marvelously in their mostly sunny locations, with little to no care and bloomed all summer long. Unlike a lot of other hydrangeas they don’t faint in the heat and aren’t as demanding about water,” she said.

The long-blooming ‘Heatwave’ hyssop toughs it out through summer’s heat and humidity. Photo courtesy

Jean Starr of Chesterton, who blogs at, says ‘Heatwave’ hyssop (Agastache) was unbeatable for its big flowers and long bloom time. “Even through the worst of the heat and humidity, ‘Heatwave’ kept pushing out its big purplish blooms on strong stems that could reach up to three feet in height. Rated to Zone 5 but resents wet feet in winter.”

‘Lemon Meringue’ adds long-blooming stalks of yellow flowers in the summer garden. Photo courtesy

Down in Southern Indiana, Bob Hill raves about the native false indigos (Baptisia), especially those in the Decadence series, because of their durability, hardiness and tolerance. ‘Lemon Meringue’ only adds to all that with bright yellow flowers on 36-inch-tall stems and bluish-green leaves, followed by the showy seed heads in fall, said Hill, owner of Hidden Hill Nursery & Sculpture Garden in Utica.

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