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Try this multiple award-winning performer
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
What plant was a 1997 Mississippi Medallion award winner, a 1997 Georgia Gold Medal winner, a 1997 Louisiana Select winner, a 1999 Arkansas Select winner, a 1999 Texas Superstar winner and a 2000 Oklahoma Proven award winner, but you probably still haven't tried it? Answer: the scaevola.
It's hard to believe that it has been nine years since the variety New Wonder scaevola dominated the news by winning awards throughout the South. Since then, most companies have come out with their own named selections, making this an enduringly popular plant to those who have grown it.
Pronounced “skay-VO-la,” these plants are probably at a garden center just waiting for you to give them a try.
If you are wondering what's so hot about it, then “hot” is a good place to start. The scaeovla is native to the coastal sand dunes of Australia, which means it can take the heat. If you have grown anything in sand, you also know water gets in and out fast. This points to the drought tolerance of the plant.
The scaevola comes in purple, blue, lavender and white. It produces fan-shaped flowers from the moment you plant it until the first hard freeze. It is extremely versatile in that it can be grown in filtered light areas with impatiens and caladiums, or it can be planted at the street side in full sun where the temperatures have escalated off the chart.
Scaevola does best in fertile, organic-rich, well-drained beds in the South. Wet, soggy conditions are not satisfactory. Amend heavy soils or poorly drained locations by adding 3 to 4 inches of organic matter and tilling or shoveling to a depth of 6 to 8 inches. Plant scaevola at the same depth it is growing in the container, spacing the plants 12 to 18 inches apart. Apply a layer of mulch after planting. The new, red-dyed mulch looks exceptional underneath the blue flowers.
They are very drought-tolerant once established in the landscape, but those in containers will need watering daily just like any other containers. Speaking of containers, the scaevola makes a fine addition to large mixed tubs. Feed scaevolas every four to six weeks with a light application of a 12-6-6 or balanced blend fertilizer.
Some of the best landscape partners are other drought-tolerant plants like lantana, lysimachia, melampodium and purple heart, as well as zinnias like this year's Mississippi Medallion award-winning Profusion Fire or Profusion Apricot. In filtered light areas, plant with red impatiens and white caladiums for a patriotic look.
Shop your local garden center this weekend for scaevolas and other tough plants for a landscape that dazzles all summer.