Plants of Merit

– Posted in: Miscellaneous

A couple of weeks ago in my post Shaw’s Garden Celebrates Historic Anniversary, I offered an overview of the Missouri Botanical Garden (MBG) and shared some of my favorite resources. I noted the Plants of Merit (POM) program but did not provide readers with any further detail. It is a program that I sponsor and feel it deserves a post.

I first heard about the program a couple of years ago when a colleague encouraged me to enter the Gardens at the Bank of Springfield in the MBG’s Plant of Merit Garden Recognition Program. Unknowingly, I had used many POM in my design.

According to the MBG web site, the POM program was established in 1998 as an educational effort to increase gardening success for the homeowner. The program centers on a list of regionally (USDA Zone 5 and 6) proven annuals, perennials, shrubs, vines, trees and edible ornamentals. Plants are chosen with the goal of making available to the public a range of plants for diverse settings that are attractive, disease- and pest-tolerant, non-invasive, and have outstanding ornamental value.

Canna (Canna 'Striata')- Plant of Merit, Emeritus

Canna (Canna 'Striata')- Plant of Merit, Emeritus

Program sponsors and regional horticultural experts nominate plants for recognition. Judging criteria include increasing landscape plant diversity, minimizing pesticide usage, energy and water conservation and relability with low maintenance. Each year new awardees are selected, past winners earn emeritus status. Currently there are 56 POM on the active list with over 100 “graduates”. For a complete listing click here.

New additions for 2009

Vervain (Verbena bonariensis)- Plant of Merit, Emeritus

Vervain (Verbena bonariensis)- Plant of Merit, Emeritus

The list is published by a consortium that includes MBG’s Kemper Center for Home Gardening, Powell Gardens in Kansas City, University of Missouri Extension, Mizzou Botanic Gardens, Missouri Landscape & Nursery Association and the Illinois Green Industry Association.

An annual guide listing the POM is widely distributed through the region. And, a network of retail nurseries and garden centers stock the POM and promote the program with customers. 

Signage located around the MBG and at participating nurseries identifying POM.

Signage located around the MBG and at participating nurseries identifying POM.

 As a landscape professional, I am very proud to support this program. With so many plants for homeowners to choose from, the POM program takes the guess work out of the selection process.

Just for fun, if you could nominate plants from your region for consideration as POM, what would make your short list? Remember to base your selection on the following criteria: easy to grow and maintain, not known to be invasive in your area, resistant or tolerant to disease and insects, have outstanding ornamental value, and are reasonably available to purchase.

Adam Woodruff

Adam Woodruff

Adam Woodruff has practiced garden design since 1995. He trained as a Botanist at Eastern Illinois University. Woodruff attributes his unique design aesthetic, naturalism with a twist, to early college exposures to a diverse range of plants and environments (collecting trips in local prairies, field excursions to bogs in Canada and treks through forests of the Northeast). He also maintained the campus greenhouse, where he fell in love with tropicals. In recent years, influences on his designs include travels abroad to Europe, Asia and the Yucatan peninsula as well as observation of the work of great plantsmen such as Piet Oudolf and Roy Diblik. Woodruff’s designs often combine grasses, prairie natives and perennials with lush tropical foliage and seasonal blooms. This harmonious blending of plant material that is not conventionally grouped together is the ‘twist’ that makes his style unique.
Adam Woodruff

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Lisa at Greenbow February 6, 2009, 7:16 am

If annuals can be POM I would nominate Plectranthus Mona Lavender and Salvia Guaranitica. They were oustanding in my garden last year, and in previous years. Drought, not enough sun according to specified requirements and they flourished.

Hi Lisa. Thanks for your comments. I did not have the same experience with Salvia guaranitica. Perhaps I pampered it too much! I’ll have to experiment this season. FYI, I have had great success with Plectranthus argentatus ‘Silver Shield’

Gail February 6, 2009, 9:28 am

I have to think about which plants I will nominate…in the mean time. I loved the link to your photos. Wonderful and exciting combinations~~I will have to visit them again. I thought about it and here are three that are naturally occurring, easy to purchase, not invasive, lovely to look at, not too tough to grow and beautiful in a garden.

Butterfly Weed ~~ Asclepias tuberosa
Wild Geranium~~Geranium maculatum
Baptisia australis


Great suggestions Gail! Annual bloodflower (Asclepias curassavica) and yellow wild indigo (Baptisia sphaerocarpa) are POM. Personally, I love Baptisia x ‘Purple Smoke’.


eliz February 7, 2009, 1:50 am

It’s interesting that the 2 plants you show are 2 of my favorites, though they are both annuals in WNY.
Otherwise, I would nominate anemone canadensis and lilium martagon.

Thanks for your comments Elizabeth. Annuals are a component of the POM program. Anemone canadensis is a Missouri native and one of my favorite plants. Anemone x hybrida ‘Honorine Jobert’ is in the program.
Lilium martagon . . . WOW! Great suggestion. I am not familiar with this plant. But, I’ll make a point to trial it. Does it tolerate wind?


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