Southern Gardening: Nemesia, erysimum brighten the spring garden - WLOX.com - The News for South Mississippi

Southern Gardening: Nemesia, erysimum brighten the spring garden

The gold-and-purple center and bright yellow flower petals of Papaya nemesia draws viewers in for a closer look. The gold-and-purple center and bright yellow flower petals of Papaya nemesia draws viewers in for a closer look.
The flower spikes of Citrona Orange erysimum are held above the narrow foliage to create a bright display. (Photo source: Gary Bachman) The flower spikes of Citrona Orange erysimum are held above the narrow foliage to create a bright display. (Photo source: Gary Bachman)

By Gary R. Bachman
MSU Horticulturist
Coastal Research & Extension Center

BILOXI, MS - Nemesia and erysimum are two plants you may have never heard of, but they can certainly deliver in your spring garden.

Nemesia species are native to South Africa and look similar to snapdragons. Many of these have been selected for use as potted plants. There are colorful hybrids being developed for use as annual bedding plants for the spring and summer seasons.

The colorful 1/2- to 1-inch flowers commonly have a pouch-like sac under the front of the flower. Flower colors include white, yellow and purple. Purple veins and yellow within the flower throat are common. The interior of the flower throat is bearded like an iris. The flowers are held on four-sided square stems.

As long as the temperatures stay mild (70s during the day and 50s at night) nemesia will continue to bloom prolifically. Older varieties include Blue Bird with bright blue flowers and white or yellow throats, and Compact Innocence with white flowers and yellow centers on 9- to 12-inch plants.

The Juicy Fruit series is a group of new hybrids with outstanding color combinations that grow to about 16 inches tall and 12 inches wide. Varieties include Papaya (yellow with golden throats), Citron (white and yellow with yellow throat), Kumquat (yellow, pinks and oranges with striped throats) and Watermelon (pinks and reds with yellow throats), which can be put on display to the point of gaudiness.

Erysimum, commonly called wallflower, is a flowering plant not used often in Mississippi gardens. Producing flower spikes of almost every shade of yellow and orange, the plant also produces an alluring aroma.

Erysimum can perform like a perennial plant lasting several years, but this is lost likely due to reseeding. Erysimum should be treated as a flowering annual. Good garden performers in Mississippi are Citrona Yellow (brilliant yellow) and Citrona Orange (flaming iridescent orange). These plants get 18 to 24 inches tall and up to 18 inches wide.

Since erysimum is tall, a foreground planting is usually required. They should be planted on 9- inch centers to achieve an outstanding mass effect. Try using pansies with mahogany or burgundy splashes with the yellow and orange erysimum flowers for an exceptional combination. Or try dwarf snapdragons as a front planting.

The Montego series is an early flowering dwarf variety that remains under 12 inches tall.

While spring plantings will offer a colorful display, both nemesia and erysimum can be planted for color in the fall. Both have cold tolerance to survive a mild winter and will provide a flowering encore the following spring.

In the coastal region, both of these plants will perform best in partial shade. In northern Mississippi, plant them in full sun. Always plant in amended and well-drained soil.

Once temperatures get above 80 degrees, both of these plants will begin to stretch and flowering will decrease. After that happens, it is best to replace with some of our heat-loving flowering annuals such as vinca or zinnia.

Try nemesia and erysimum in your landscape this spring and I bet they will become garden favorites.

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