To promote the use of Mississippi-grown plants, the Mississippi Medallion Program annually recognizes three to five plants that perform exceptionally well throughout the state. The Mississippi Nursery and Landscape Association (MNLA) established the program in 1996. Plant selections are evaluated by a committee and introduced to wholesale growers and Nursery Certified Professionals through MNLA's educational programs that promote their proper use in local landscapes.
Gulf muhlygrass (Muhlenbergia capillaris)
Gulf muhlygrass is a very polite ornamental grass that will grow about 3 feet tall and wide but will not spread and become a nuisance. It forms a perfectly lovely, neat mound of grass. In the late summer and fall, the perennial creates a spectacular show with huge, airy flowers that seem to move like a vibrant pink cloud in the breeze. It appreciates moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Zones 6-11
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Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight'
If you love hydrangeas, you simply must have 'Limelight'. This is a large shrub, 6-8 feet tall, with outsize chartreuse flowers. Emerging creamy white, the flowers turn lemon-lime and finally take on a pink or red blush in the fall. These hydrangeas are fabulous for fresh and dried flower arrangements. The plant appreciates some shade from the hot afternoon sun. Prune as needed in late winter; it will not affect the new season's flowers. Zones 3-8
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Frostproof gardenia (Gardenia agusta)
The flowers of this frostproof gardenia are fully double with milk-white petals as soft as kid gloves and every bit as fragrant as the ones your grandmother grew. A compact shrub, it features a rounded form that reaches 4-5 feet tall and will never need pruning. The foliage is typical of the species -- lustrous and dark green. You can practically see yourself in it. Plant this gardenia in full to part sun in moist, well-drained soil. Zones (7) 8-11
Chinese snowball (Viburnum macrocephalum)
Trick your friends with this great plant. Each spring, it will flower with blossoms that look exactly like the white pom-poms of a bigleaf hydrangea (which flowers in late summer and fall). This is a gorgeous shrub, growing 12-15 feet tall and about as wide. The flowers are extraordinary and quickly fill up a large vase. The Chinese snowball is easy to grow in full sun or partial shade in moist, well-drained soil. This shrub is semievergreen or evergreen, depending on how far south you live. Zones 6-9
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'Krauter Vesuvius' cherry plum (Prunus cerasifera 'Krauter Vesuvius')
This cherry plum is a petite tree that adds a splash of color all season long. In early spring, even before the foliage emerges, the slender, dark branches are covered with fragrant light pink blossoms. The dark red leaves unfurl soon after and mature to a dark reddish purple. 'Krauter Vesuvius' has the one of darkest, if not the darkest, red foliage colors of all the cherry plums. Plant it in full sun for best leaf color. Great planted as an accent or light screen, the tree prefers moist, well-drained soil. Zones 5-8
'Kathy Ann' yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria 'Kathy Ann')
This plant needs a better public relations agent, because its beauty and garden value are not always immediately recognized. 'Kathy Ann' has a pretty, upright form, and it reaches 15-20 feet tall and about 15 feet wide. With dark green foliage and bright red berries, this holly is often used for topiaries and hedges because it responds so well to pruning. Incredibly adaptable, it can be grown in wet or dry sites. 'Kathy Ann' was discovered in Stone County, Mississippi. Zones 7-10
Snowflake oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia 'Brido')
It's hard to resist this oakleaf hydrangea's gigantic double flowers that begin to bloom in midsummer. Each individual flower keeps growing and producing more white petals, while the old ones mature to pink for an interesting two-tone effect. The habit also prolongs the flowering period. The whole panicle of flowers can easily grow to more than a foot long. Maroon and purple fall colors make this shrub a garden favorite. Snowflake grows 5-8 feet tall and wide, but it can grow a little taller in optimal conditions. Zones 5-9
'Bloodgood' Japanese red maple (Acer palmatum 'Bloodgood')
This must be America's favorite Japanese maple, and it has passed the test of time. 'Bloodgood' is known for its outstanding foliage color. New leaves emerge with a rich purple-red color that doesn't fade. The tree provides a strong color accent all season long and is perfect for an Asian-style garden, a foundation planting, or a pond's-edge garden. In the autumn, the foliage turns fire-engine red. Dappled shade is best in southern regions. Water regularly to get the tree established. Zones 6-8
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'Tonto' crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia 'Tonto')
Introduced by the U.S. National Arboretum, which has provided many superior, disease-resistant cultivars of crape myrtle, 'Tonto' is a semidwarf tree or multistem shrub that grows to about 9 feet tall. From July to September, bunches of fuchsia-red flowers bloom with 50-300 blooms in each bunch. It has a lovely maroon fall color to boot. 'Tonto' is often planted with an evergreen groundcover around the base to accentuate the handsome bark in winter. Zones 6-9
Autumn Blaze freeman maple (Acer x freemanii 'Jeffersred')
Autumn Blaze maple has won countless awards and is grown in nearly every state. It is one of the most popular new-tree introductions in history because it is so reliable. Autumn Blaze is fast-growing, too, reaching 40-55 feet tall, and it has a good-looking uniform shape. With traffic-stopping brilliant orange-red fall foliage, Autumn Blaze is a cross between silver and red maples; it has the best characteristics of both parents. It adapts to a large range of soil conditions and climates, from the frigid North to the hot, humid South. Zones 3-8
'Burgundy' fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Burgundy')
'Burgundy' fringe flower and the closely related 'Blush' fringe flower were brought to the United States from Japan in 1989. These perennials are unusual pink-flowering selections of a normally white-flowering species. These unforgettable members of the witch hazel family are shamefully underused. 'Burgundy' reaches 6-10 feet tall, and 'Blush' seems to be a bit smaller and more compact. Both have outrageous pink flowers that bloom in April. They prefer moist, well-drained, acidic soils in full sun. Zones 7-9
'Indian Summer' black-eyed Susan (Rudbeckia hirta 'Indian Summer')
Eye-catching golden-yellow blossoms of 'Indian Summer' are quite large -- 6-9 inches across -- and grow on 2- to 3-foot-tall stems. Perfect for the middle and back of a border, this black-eyed Susan is a must-have for anyone who loves to cut fresh flowers. 'Indian Summer' will often bloom from June until September; removing the spent blooms will help lengthen the flowering season. This versatile prairie plant is tolerant of heat and drought, and it grows in a wide range of soils, except overly wet ones. 'Indian Summer' will reseed itself and naturalize in optimal sites. Zones 3-7 (8)
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Knock Out rose (Rosa 'Radrazz')
Knock Out is not your grandmother's rose. This shrub rose has been put to the test all over the United States and has a rock-solid reputation. It does not require any complicated pruning or treatments to ward off pests and disease. The compact shrub, 5 feet tall and wide, is covered with bright cherry-red flowers from spring to fall. During the winter months, the orange-red rose hips add interest to the landscape. Plant it in full sun, and don't crowd the rosebushes; the plant likes good air circulation. Zones 5-11
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'Shishigashira' camellia (Camellia sasanqua 'Shishigashira')
Often called Christmas camellia because it blooms in late fall and early winter, 'Shishigashira' has bright rosy-pink double blossoms, and it flowers abundantly. Plant a group of these lovely camellias to create quite a color impact. Camellias are from the tea family and are, in fact, edible. Organically grown blossoms make a lovely garnish for holiday dishes. Growing 6-10 feet tall, 'Shishigashira' is charming in a foundation planting or as an informal hedge. Plant it in acidic soil. Zones 7-9
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