Another POTY I can’t grow



But I like it anyway. It was somehow leaked that the 2011
perennial of the year is Amsonia hubrichtii “Arkansas Blue Star.” The Perennial
Plant Association has not yet announced it, but I saw it in the 2/7/10 Newsday,
and PPA prez Steven Still was quoted as confirming the choice.

This is another native, which is interesting. And another
blue-flowered plant—2007 was nepeta, 2008 was a blue cranesbill and 2010 (how
long ago that seems!) was baptisia. (I do OK with cranesbill, but many of the
plants chosen by PPA need airier conditions, more sun, and lighter soil than I
can provide.)

Speaking of natives, I received a semi-disturbing message
from a non-gardening acquaintance who (nonetheless) is now working for the
local land conservancy and wants to “coordinate their mission with native
plants.” Maybe I should advise her to tell the conservancy to plant amsonia and
baptisia everywhere. Then, even if I can’t grow them, I can enjoy them wherever
I go.  Or maybe not.

(These are Susan’s pictures, as she suggested in comments.)

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Elizabeth Licata

Elizabeth Licata has been a regular writer for  Garden Rant since 2007, after contributing a guest rant about the overuse of American flags in front gardens. She lives and gardens in Buffalo, N.Y., which, far from the frozen wasteland many assume it to be, is a lush paradise of gardens, historic architecture, galleries, museums, theaters, and fun. As editor of Buffalo Spree magazine,  Licata helps keep Western New Yorkers apprised about what is happening in their region. She is also a freelance writer and art curator, who’s been published in Fine Gardening, Horticulture, ArtNews, Art in America, the Village Voice, and many other publications. She does regular radio segments for the local NPR affiliate, WBFO.

Licata is involved with Garden Walk Buffalo, the largest free garden tour in the US and possibly the world, and has written the text for a book about Garden Walk. She has also written and edited several art-related books. Contact Elizabeth: ealicata at


  1. I love a blue flower as much as the next person, but you bring up a great point about how many recent POTYs have had blue blooms. Time for the PTB to branch out on their POTY picks and give us a flower of a different color.

  2. I wish the PPA would be more open about the selection process — I know members get to vote every year, but they get to vote on a selection of three plants — and it seems like if one plant doesn’t win, it just comes back another year until it does (I remember trying to convince my boss when I worked at Ohio State to vote for amsonia back in… ’05 or ’06?) Sometimes it feels like the selections are just a list of Steven Still’s favorite plants!

  3. I love this and can grow it here in zone 5a IL.
    The flowers IMHO are insignificant and pale blue. When people are drawn to it in my garden it is because of the foliage not the flowers.

    It is not the easiest thing to propagate via division. It’s like a woody plant at the base. It seems the seeds do sprout on occasion.

    If it does grow in your area be sure to get the hubrichtii not the tomentosum. The later one looks weedy and has uncool foliage.

  4. Am I the only one who hates amsonia? How could it be a POTY?It was growing everywhere in this garden when we moved in. Its blooms are small and insignificant not to mention, a creepy shade of steely blue. Yeah, the foliage turns yellow in the fall, but that’s after it flops and falls over.
    I tried to appreciate it, work with it, move it around, etc. Then one day I took the shovel and took care of the problem, if you know what I mean.

  5. I’m surprised at the dislike of the Amsonia flowers – I find them to be traffic-stopping – literally. People pull over on my corner in May and yell to me to ask “what is THAT gorgeous plant!” Of course I tell them to come back by again in fall to see it in its true glory.

  6. You don’t have to be a gardener to appreciate and promote the use of native plants. For instance, I imagine most active gardeners are too busy with their own gardens to be involved with volunteer work in our state and national parks.

    I am curious to know what the “semi-disturbing message” was. Care to share? Thanks. . .

  7. It is not a volunteer position, Michelle. I would like to see botanical/horticultural knowledge for the paid positions in this field, especially with jobs so scarce. That’s my opinion; others may not agree.

    I volunteer both in our local community garden and parks, and for the county botanical gardens, as do a lot of my fellow gardeners.

  8. I have loved amsonia since seeing it at Joy Creek Nursery in St. Helens 2 years ago…sadly, they sell out of it so early in the season, I could never get one. Last fall, I found 3 online and snatched them up…they were mere slips of plants, but I stuck them in the ground and am just crossing my fingers they came through the winter alive! A huge billowy mound in it’s full glory in autumn is really show-stopping and good fall color is rare in a perennial.

  9. That fall-color shot above was taken at the Scott Arboretum on the campus of Swarthmore. They’re doing innovative and gorgeous design using great sustainable plants, native and otherwise.

  10. Amsonia is a beautiful native prairie plant… an excellent choice!

    It’s been great to see the recognition of a number of native plants as POTY in the last decade or so. Such attention was long overdue!

  11. Native is only native in some places. In others it might be an invasive pest. Please make sure you’re using your “native” plants in the right habitat.

  12. “Native is only native in some places. In others it might be an invasive pest. Please make sure you’re using your “native” plants in the right habitat.”

    Right! Which is why NO POTY will ever satisfy everyone! No plant grows everywhere… or should!

    Who wants a homogenized countryside?:)

  13. Darn, the secret’s out on this plant. The flowers are insignifcant, the summer foliage is very sexy, the fall color is like “OMG take me to your leader.” It grows wonderfully in my part sun non-dry clay.

  14. amsonia is easy&amazing native: the scott arboretum uses it to advantage. it grows from soil level to 12″h plus in 2 weeks in may in zone 6b clay, has ferny foliage that gives the illusion of air movement (ha!) in our sultry VA summers, and that great golden swath in autumn. you will have divisions forever to passalong, plus seeds from the pods. companions: callicarpa (beautyberry), echinacea, caryopteris. space that teeny 1qt plant 18-24″away from anything else: it will engulf other, more tentative, plants, and the lack of air circulation can lead to various diseases and pests for them, but not for amsonia. great drought-tolerant plant. oh, and i’m a sucker for blue flowers, as are other members of the PPA, evidently. 🙂

  15. I stand corrected on amsonia. I did some research and realized that the amsonias on my new property were the victims of encroaching shade as the garden aged. There’s not a lot of full sun here in my garden, and this far north I think they need it to perform well. I am always the one preaching ‘right plant for the right place’, I should listen to myself. So I blogged about how I was mistaken and apologized for bad-mouthing amsonia. Forgive me everyone?

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