Amsonia hubrichtii – Perennial Plant of the Year

Amsonia in Battery Park, NYC

Last May I went on a fabulous tour of some of NYC’s parks beginning with Battery Park.  There I saw Amsonia, which some bloggers had been raving about. I looked at this mass planting and did not see what all the raving was about. The flowers seemed inconsequential.  I was not impressed.

Now I read that Amsonia hubrichtii has been named the Perennial Plant of the Year by the Perennial Plant Association. How could this be?  The PPA  choses plants that ” are suitable for a wide range of climate types, low maintenance, easily propagated, and exhibits multiple season interest.”  In the past they have celebrated many plants that I can appreciate including Baptisia Australis, David phlox,  and Geranium ‘Rozanne’. I couldn’t say they didn’t know their business, so why Amsonia?

Rhonda Fleming at the Garden Buzz had something to say about Amsonia – and it wasn’t good. Fortunately, she reminded me that there are lots of reasons a plant may not look notable. I  also realized one reason may be the variety. Weston Nurseries supplied this photo of Amsonia hubrichtii, native to Arkansas and Oklahoma,  which looks a whole lot better than the Amsonia growing in Battery Park.  Much more floriferous.

I only saw the Amsonia in the spring, but the PPA promises that the foliage will go on to provide fine fluffy golden foliage into the fall.  If you have a sunny spot with good drainage, this low maintenance plant that will grow into a three by three foot clump. It is of no interest to hungry deer.  Good to know.

Have you had experience with Amsonias?

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. Cyndy

    Pat, I wasn’t a true believer in amsonia until last fall when I saw the mass planting at the Lurie – really spectacular! That said, I’m wondering if it is more suited to public settings, rather than the home garden.

  2. Pat

    Cyndy – I am hoping that I’ll hear more about this amsonia since it has been chosen as Perennial of the Year.

  3. Rose

    I first saw Amsonia in the mass planting at the Lurie in Chicago where it was spectacular in the spring. I was so excited last year when I got a small division of it which really took off. I can’t wait to see it in bloom. But mine is Amsonia T. (I’ve forgotten the full name), not the hubrichtii that the PPA has chosen, and has a little different foliage. I’d like to hear, too, what others say about the hubrichtii before I add one to a different area of the garden.

  4. Pat

    Rose – I wish I knew what was growing in Battery Park. Variety names can be really important.

  5. Thanks for the mention, I think. If you get all the way to the end of my blog post on Amsonia, you’ll see that I concede that it wasn’t growing in optimal condiitons in my garden…
    It all goes back to right plant for the right place. Then Amsonia has merit. Thanks!

  6. Pat

    Rhonda – I did read all the way to the end of the post, and I’m sorry I didn’t make it clear that you felt you had not planted it in the right place. However, I seems to me that the disappointing amsonia I saw in Battery Park was not the PPA Plant of the Year. We need to put the right plant in the right place, and we also have to know exactly which plant. I love your blog!

  7. Hi, Pat, The amsonia in your first picture is likely A. tabaermonana, with wider, willow-like leaves. I have it in my garden, and it’s a plant that does best after a few years to establish. One of the good things is that it’s a well-behaved clumper, with (or so they say) somewhat interesting seed heads. The fall foliage colour for me hasn’t been spectacular.

    A. hubrichtii is what I believe you show in the lower picture, with leaves that are much more threadlike. This plant is used in the entry garden to the Toronto Botanical Garden, and I can attest that it does make a glowing golden picture in fall, very frothy and a lovely texture. I’ve read that it will also work to some degree in part shade — something I’d like to test out.

    Plant of the Year is usually selected for its easy care and reliable performance. I think either of these amsonias would qualify, but A. hubrichtii is definitely superior as a plant specimen.

  8. Thanks for the clarification. I guess we should all be careful and make sure we know what we’re buying (or in my case, inheriting). Check those labels…love your blog too.

  9. Pat

    Helen – thank you so much for this full and useful comment. I think I will look for the amsonia hubrichtii for my garden. It seems it would be worthwhile just for that fall foliage.
    Rhonda – All this Latin, but it really is useful.

  10. Jean

    Hi Pat, I’m an Amsonia lover (and wrote a laudatory blog post about this genus a couple of months ago: The one I have in my garden is A. hubrichtii (which isn’t supposed to be hardy this far north, but is). It isn’t the pale flowers that make it special so much as the foliage. Mine quickly grew to a big clump (about 4′ diameter) and stays upright and beautiful from late spring until late fall, and it is great for providing structure in a perennial bed. I am planning to add more Amsonia to my garden, including the more cold-hardy A. tabernaemontana (your top photo) and the shorter hybrid cultivar ‘Blue Ice,’ which is supposed to have deeper blue flowers.

  11. Pat

    Jean – Thank you so much for all this information. If your amsonia is hardy in Maine I think I will give it a try. I like plants that have a substantial size.

  12. Pat

    Jean – a PS – I have tried a couple of times to use the link you gave, but it is not working.

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