Saturday, February 20, 2016 By: Ask A Master Gardener

Oklahoma Proven Plant Selections for 2016

Best choices for planting in Oklahoma

Brian Jervis: Ask a Master Gardener

Saturday, February 20, 2016

Q: I would like to plant a perennial grass border other than monkey grass around one of my garden beds. Any ideas? Kay, Tulsa

A: If you go to the Oklahoma Proven website, you will find that among this year’s new selections are varieties of a sedge genus called Carex, which may be a good substitute for liriope (monkey grass).
Oklahoma Proven is a program that has been in place since 1999. It is organized by OSU Horticulture faculty and involves nurserymen around the state. Every year, they select a tree, shrub, perennial, annual and a “collector’s choice” plant. These plants are ones proven to grow well in Oklahoma.
The Carex selection for perennials is a large group of plants. They are sedges, not grasses, although they are similar to ornamental grasses. They may be evergreen or deciduous and have a wide range of colors. They tolerate moist and dry soils and grow in full sun and full shade. Of the many varieties, two suggested by OSU faculty are Ice Ballet and Lemon Zest. These are two of several that may be used for ground covers, perennial borders and habitat restoration.
The tree selection by Oklahoma Proven for this year is the escarpment live oak. This is a smaller version of the coastal live oak, which is the tree associated with antebellum Southern plantations. The escarpment variety is our only native evergreen oak and grows predictably in hardiness zones 6-10. The tree is more drought and cold tolerant than the coastal live oak and is tolerant of a wide range of soils. Mature height is 20 to 40 feet. It is not usually carried by local nurseries yet but is available online.
The shrub for 2016 is a yucca cultivar called “color guard.” It needs full sun to part shade and is hardy in USDA zones 3-8. The leaves are gold centered, variegated and sword shaped. Stalks emerge in late spring with creamy white bell-shaped flowers, said to be fragrant.
The annual plant selection this year are improved cultivars of annual vinca, also called Madagascar periwinkle. Improved cultivars include plants in the Cora, Mediterranean and Titan series, along with others. These plants do best with full sun and warm soils. They bloom throughout the summer and flower colors come in shades of white, pink, red and purple. Some varieties have disease resistance and drought tolerance.
The “collector’s choice” selection for 2016 are several deciduous magnolia cultivars. These trees bloom early in spring and have a tulip-like blossom, causing some to incorrectly call them “tulip trees.” They range in size from a shrub to a large tree and need full sun to part shade. They are rated for hardiness zones 4-9. Oklahoma Proven has a list of cultivars recommended on its website, and it has a wide range of colors — from red and white to pink and purple — and a new hybrid with yellow blossoms.
Go to the Oklahoma Proven website at for more information and photos of all the plants.

For more information or to ask a question about gardening, contact the Master Gardeners at 918-746-3701 from 9 a.m.-4 p.m.

Garden tips
§  Mid-February is a good time to begin pruning and fertilizing trees and small fruits.
§  Now is a good time to cut back your perennial ornamental grasses, such as pampus grass. Cut back to remove the dead grass but avoid damaging new buds and early green growth at the base.
§  Begin planting blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, grapes, asparagus and other perennial garden crops this month. Contact Tulsa Master Gardeners at 918-746-3701 for specifics about these plant


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