By Adam Russell
COLLEGE STATION – The new Texas Superstar guide to strong and stunning plants for Texans created by Texas A&M AgriLife Research, the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas Department of Agriculture is now being distributed throughout the state.
To be designated a Texas Superstar, a plant must not only be beautiful but must also perform well for consumers and growers throughout the state. Superstars must be easy to propagate, which should ensure the plants are not only widely available throughout Texas but also reasonably priced.
A seven-person board decides which plants are chosen for the Texas Superstar marketing campaigns. The Texas Superstar Executive Board is made up of a variety of AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension experts specializing in fields of horticulture, plant physiology and other disciplines and include Dr. Brent Pemberton, Overton; Dr. Tim Davis, College Station; Dr. Mike Arnold and Dr. Dan Lineberger, College Station; Dr. Larry Stein, Uvalde; David Rodriguez, San Antonio and Dr. Cynthia McKenney, Texas Tech University department of plant and soil science, Lubbock.
Input from board members, county horticulturists, arboretum and botanical garden personnel, horticultural writers, and landscape designers is considered during the selection process.
Pemberton, AgriLife Research horticulturist in Overton, said the new brochure represents a collective effort between the state agencies and the landscape and nursery industry to provide information to help industry professionals and the gardening public make sound, science-based decisions about the products.
“It’s become an important educational tool for industry folks and the public and for our Master Gardeners around the state who go out there and provide informational programs,” he said.
The Texas Superstar program began as a regional program in the early 1980s and became a statewide effort in 1989. The name Texas Superstar was coined in 1997. The designation was applied to all the statewide promotions and has been used ever since.
The newest brochure features dozens of Texas Superstars, including 2016 selections, and provides recommendations for gardeners to create the best environment for those plants to perform.
Richard De Los Santos, the Texas Department of Agriculture’s Go Texan marketing coordinator, Austin, said the program has been an immense success for people in the industry and gardeners around the state.
“It’s by far the most anticipated and in-demand informational brochure we produce,” he said. “We’ve had to print more copies before, and it seems like we’re always being asked toward the end of the year when the next brochure will be available.”
The department produced 55,000 copies of the new 18-page Texas Superstar brochure, which was funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture Specialty block grant, De Los Santos said. Sixty-four boxes of the brochures have been sent to AgriLife agents, offices and centers around the state for distribution.
De Los Santo said the brochures will also be distributed through Master Gardeners programs around the state and would likely again be a popular attraction at the 2016 Texas Nursery and Landscape Association Expo which begins Aug. 18-20 in Houston. Expo visitors can pick up the brochure at the Texas Department of Agriculture Booth M, the Texas Superstar Booth S, or at the AgriLife Extension booth.
“The brochure is a great way to promote Texas plants and Texas products and helps growers develop markets,” he said. “It also gives consumers the best information available regarding plants that excel throughout the state.”
Amy Graham, Texas Nursery and Landscape Association president, Austin, said industry growers, landscapers and ultimately the public rely on the efforts of AgriLife Research and AgriLife Extension to determine how plants will perform around the state and in what conditions they perform best.
“We know these plants are Texas tough as a result of that research,” Graham said.
Graham said years of plant trials around the state are a rigorous test for plants and that certification as a Texas Superstar is a standard that helps differentiate new plants and reintroduces previously overlooked selections. The program gives direction for growers and also provides a marketing tool for growers with highlighted plants.
“When the association takes a position on something, we look at the science behind it,” she said. “When a plant has been tested by experts in Texas we stand up and take notice.”
Graham said partnerships with AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and the Department of Agriculture make the industry stronger, and the success of the Texas Superstar program highlights that cooperation.
Pemberton said the program has evolved and flourished because of these cooperative efforts.
“It’s a program that I think everyone is very proud of, and one that we all can see the positive impact it makes for growers, the nurseries and the consumers,” he said.
Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by AgriLife Research, a state agency that is part of the Texas A&M University System. A list of wholesalers and retailers who stock Texas Superstar plants and labels can be found at http://texassuperstar.com/ where one can also download the new brochure.
The Texas Superstar brochure is also available online at GOTEXAN.org.