BY LORI MURRAY, Texas Superstar Specialist

Little did I know when I discovered the new SuperStar Vinca Cora how much sheer pleasure it would bring me. Two years ago I had two hanging baskets of rosy colored flowers that lasted well into the winter months. Last year I had four baskets – two rose and two white – and they literally spilled color around my patio and yard. And here I am again extolling their virtues!

These plants actually set flowers every four inches and require no deadheading. They thrive in our worst summer heat. Even if I forget to water them, they come right back once I drench their pots.

This year I planted three extra-large baskets (large enough that I used an entire six pack in each one – just to see what would happen) of the rose color in March, but I lost one of them in all the rains in June. So I replanted last week with what Grimsell’s had left – some somewhat overgrown white ones.

Since the bedding plants were already so large, I only used three in each of the new baskets, but I’m hoping that these too will overgrow their baskets, just as promised. I’ve included pictures to show how well this year’s baskets are doing and have summarized below the general information on this wonderful plant. By the way, I think three bedding plants per hanging basket would have been enough. I can’t see that the bigger baskets with their six plant apiece look any better than the others.

Vinca Cora (a registered name) are heat and humidity tolerant and are available in a wide variety of colors. The upright annual adapts to most soils and prefers full sun, but will tolerate semishade (you won’t get as many flowers though). It will grow 14 – 18 inches tall and about 2 feet wide. It’s available in Apricot, Burgundy, Dark Red, Light Lavender, Purple, White, and a Mix – beautiful colors on its dark green foliage. As with any Vinca, it is very important to try not to wet the foliage but they really don’t seem to mind when the temperature is in the high 90’s.

It’s also available in a trailing form, Cora Cascade (a trademarked name), that is ideal for hanging baskets. This species grows 6 – 8 inches high and spreads 32 – 36 inches wide.

The flowers are evenly distributed and slightly larger than most other vincas. In a basket, this plant will trail up to 3 feet, “setting blooms every inch of the way.”

It’s available in Magenta, Lilac, Peach Blush, and Polka Dot. Google Vinca Cora for seed sources if you like to go that route, but If you buy bedding plants, check the identification of the vinca to be sure it’s Cora as big box stores tend to order nationwide and may not carry this species. You might have to go to a local nursery like Grimsells, but if you’ve had difficulty with vinca in the past as I have, it’s well worth the trip. You should begin looking for them in March.

Learning about Vinca Cora led me to the Texas Superstars of which it is a member. This is a group of plants that was high on the list of plants to cover when these articles began almost 6 years ago.

To refresh your memory, Texas Superstars are plants chosen for their hardiness and beauty. They’re proven winners in our Texas climates and have been tested all over the state by horticulturists associated with Texas A& M Agrilife Extension and Texas A& M Agrilife Research.

Go to www.texassuperstars. com to find an illustrated plant list, information on the selection process, articles about various plants (in the Press Room section), wholesalers and retailers by areas, and access to both a hardiness zone map for Texas and a brochure in PDF form.

This list of strong and stunning plants is a treasure trove for gardeners all over the state and its ready access a real boon to us backyard gardeners.

SOURCES: www.aggiehorticulture.com www.parkseed.com, www. texassuperstars.com