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To be awarded Perennial Plant of the Year, a plant has to perform well in a wide range of climates, propagate with ease, show resistance to disease, and require minimal maintenance. For the second year in a row, members of the Perennial Plant Association have awarded the Perennial Plant of the Year to a native North American wildflower. This year the honors go to the lovely, and versatile, Arkansas Blue Star (Amsonia hubrichtii).
Amsonia looks best when planted in masses. Space plants 36 inches apart in straight or slightly staggered rows. Plants develop slowly, so don't worry if yours doesn't look like it's amounting to much for the first couple of years. Like many perennials, it won't reach its full potential for at least 3 to 4 years. The foliage looks wonderful when grown with ornamental grasses and flowers that have attractive seed heads like Echinacea. The real show though, comes in fall, when the golden-yellow foliage provides a traffic-stopping backdrop to fall flowers like sedums and mums.
Hardiness: USDA Zones 4 to 9.
Flowers: Wands of delicate, star-shaped, blue flowers; blooms in late spring/early summer.
Foliage: Feathery, fine-textured light green leaves in spring and summer; foliage turns a stunning golden-yellow in fall.
Growth habit: 36 inches tall and 36 inches wide; forms a 3-foot, shrub-like mound.
Light: Full sun (best) to partial shade.
Soil: Prefers average, moist, well-drained soil. Once established, plants develop greater drought resistance.
Propagation: Seed, division, or softwood cuttings.