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On Gardening: Ladybird primroses make their debut

Norman Winter, Tribune News Service on

Published in Gardening News

New in garden centers this year are a couple of Ladybirds. When you see the name Ladybird associated with a plant, you can assume a few things: native DNA, great for the environment and most likely tough as nails.

Such is the case for Ladybird Lemonade and Ladybird Sunglow, two new hybrid Calylophus varieties. More than likely you are wondering: What is that "Calylophus" word? It's the botanical name for Texas Primrose, which is about as Ladybird-deserving as a bluebonnet.

Indeed, it is an all star with bees, birds and butterflies, and it's hardly ever on Bambi’s menu. Given the right conditions, these are known to be perennials in zones 8a to 10b. As might be expected, a plant native to Texas is not going to be a bog plant. These two jewels of the plant world are about as tough as it gets.

They get about 8 inches tall with an outward spread of 20 inches. The Ladybird Lemonade is a glorious pastel yellow, which is a most sought-after color by the garden club ladies. The Lady Bird Sunglow is a more intensely saturated yellow, but not the least bit gaudy for older sensitive eyes.

In trials gardens across the country, most plants are judged on a scale of 1 to 5, with anything averaging above a 4 being a rock-solid recommended performer. Both Ladybirds have done well in trials from Penn State to the South. In the University of Tennessee Trials, they both made the Best of Show list.

Sunlight and well-drained soil are the most important prerequisites. Once yours are established in the landscape, they don’t require much fertilizer. A little mixed in with planting and perhaps a light application in mid-to-late summer will keep them blooming. Do not overwater is a rule — and blessed news for a lot of gardeners.

The rule also gives you a clue that the Ladybirds do well in containers and baskets where drainage most always excels. Your fertilizer regimen will change in containers, however, as a water-soluble mix may be required to stimulate a tired-looking plant.

If yours get open or leggy in appearance, the Ladybirds respond well to cutting back where a third of the volume is removed. This is the ideal time to give an application of the water-soluble fertilizer.


The Ladybird Lemonade and Ladybird Sunglow are being introduced by Proven Winners, who, as you might guess, have developed some incredible eye-catching recipes that will give you a summer of dazzling color.

Beach Walk is one recipe that will be like having a pollinator garden in a container. The recipe features Ladybirds Sunglow with Superbena Sparkling amethyst verbena and Unplugged Pink salvia. Then there is one called Hot Embers, which is as colorful as Carnival in Rio de Janeiro. It has Ladybird Sunglow with Blue My Mind XL evolvulus and Superbells Tropical Sunrise calibrachoa.

One aspect I love about them in containers are the thin leaves of the Ladybirds, which give a grassy texture to the containers but are an asset in the flower border. You’ll really love it if you have the opportunity to use them in a rock garden situation.

The Ladybird Sunglow and Ladybird Lemonade are garden center headliners this spring and summer, so don’t miss your opportunity!


(Norman Winter, horticulturist, garden speaker and author of “Tough-as-Nails Flowers for the South” and “Captivating Combinations: Color and Style in the Garden.” Follow him on Facebook @NormanWinterTheGardenGuy.)

(NOTE TO EDITORS: Norman Winter receives complimentary plants to review from the companies he covers.)

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