Timely Topics for the Week of June 18, 2006
By David Rodriguez
Texas SuperStar is a Texas A&M University System trademarked nomenclature and label which is bestowed on specially selected plants which have attributes that make them Texas’ tough and consumer friendly. Skeptics often wonder how certain plants can be chosen as “better” than others. While it is true some people have never met a plant they didn’t like, plants which attain SuperStar status must be attractive and useful to the masses rather a special few “collectors”. Every effort is made to ensure that SuperStar plants will consistently perform well for Texas consumers regardless of their plant growing expertise. There is no perfect plant so limitations of highlighted plants are explained to avoid discontent by those who overlook the obvious when growing plants. Realizing that some folks “can mess up a ball-bearing” and no plant is “bullet-proof”, everyone is not successful with SuperStar plants. However, the vast majorities of gardeners are successful and make Texas SuperStar plants a permanent part of their landscapes.
The majority of plant selections which have attained the Texas SuperStar status have originated in San Antonio under the tutelage of horticulture interests in this area. Once plants are selected and tested for market adaptability in the San Antonio area, the decision as to which plants should be highlighted statewide is primarily based upon observations made at replicated plots and demonstration trials across the state. Because plant performance can be rather subjective, as much input as possible is gathered from competent horticulturists who understand the importance of both landscape performanceand marketability. A very important factor which must be considered when selecting plants for SuperStar educational and marketing campaigns is whether sufficient numbers of plants can be produced to meet the increased consumer demand to be generated. Nothing angers a consumer and/or a nurseryman more than not to have the promoted plants available.
What are the characteristics which make a plant a “winner”? I have mentioned a few such as (1) It must be attractive and useful to the gardening masses rather than a special few who devote themselves to one specific plant type; (2) It must consistently perform well for Texas consumers regardless of their plant growing expertise; (3) It must be able to be propagated and mass-produced in sufficient numbers to meet the increased consumer demand generated; (4) It must be unique and/or offer desirable and ornamental characteristics which are not usually available in commonly sold plants; (5) It must be as pest resistant as possible—an added bonus is to be a deer non-preference plant; and, most importantly, (6) It must be attractive in the sales container — so attractive that it sells itself to the consumer who has never heard of the many attributes of the plant.
The Financial Impact of the Texas SuperStar (CEMAP) Plant Program Since the beginning of the Texas SuperStar Plant introduction program in the fall of 1989 through spring of 2007 there will have been 40 plants introduced and promoted to the Texas public. Four plants were million-dollar sellers (Satsuma’s, ‘Gold Star’ Esperanza, Perennial Hibiscus and ‘Belinda’s Dream’ Rose) for the Texas nursery industry within 4 years of their introduction. The success of these plants will simply be evaluated by revenue generated by a plant material which was previously not available. Each one of the plants mentioned could produce at least a several hundred thousand-dollar boost to the nursery industry in one year of sales. To keep these profitable Texas SuperStars coming, an aggressive program of searching, propagation and testing must be maintained. This very conservative $15 million estimate takes into consideration number of items sold and the wholesale and retail sales price as derived from the major wholesale growers (Hines, ColorSpot and Greenleaf) in the state. This means that the value-added components are not included nor is the production of smaller wholesale plant producers across the state.
For a full listing with illustrations and history visit: http://www.texassuperstar.com/plants.html
Texas Cooperative Extension
The Texas A&M University System
Bexar County Master Gardener Advisor