Nothing improves “curb appeal” more than a home landscape filled with ornamental flowers. But flowers that thrive in one part of Kansas may do poorly in another area.
To help take the guesswork out of selecting ornamental flowers, Kansas State University’s Prairie Star Ornamental Flower Program conducts trials to determine which varieties are best adapted to the challenging prairie climate.
K-State Research and Extension nursery crops and garden center specialist Cheryl Boyer says around 600 cultivars are being tested this year in ground trials and in large container trials.
“With this program we actually have demonstration gardens across the state,” explained Boyer. “So, they don’t all have all 600 varieties, but they have a handful, and so we can compare varieties that grow at our main trial site with those that are growing at Colby and Hays and Haysville and across the state.”
The McPherson County Extension is another one of those sites that hosts a demonstration garden where Prairie Star annuals are on display along with Prairie Bloom perennials.
The plants are rated for vigor – how fast and how strong they grow – and the overall visual impact of the flower display. On plants where the foliar display isparamount, the color and visual impact of the leaves, not flowers are taken into account. Because weather conditions in Kansas can vary greatly, Boyer says flowers on the Prairie Star list must exhibit superior performances for two or more years in the university’s research trials.
“Last year we only added 36 plants out of more than 500 that we tested,” she said. “So, very few make it to our recommended plants list, so you can be pretty confident that those that do will perform well across the state.”
All varieties on the Prairie Star list are available from retail gardencenters or mail-order plant companies. Boyer says plants at garden centers may or may not be labeled Prairie Star, so take the list to shop for specific varieties. The list is available online at
For more information on the Prairie Star Program and the Demonstration garden at the McPherson County Extension office, contact Master Gardner Jim Boyer at 620-241-0606.
Or stop by and see the garden for yourself. The McPherson County K-State Research and Extension office is located at 600 West Woodside in McPherson.