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Fragrant flakes in July thanks to Snow Princess
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
In the South, I hear people referring every now and then to snow in July. Of course we rarely get snow even in the winter, and it sure doesn’t fall in July, but we can have the illusion of snow with a new plant called Snow Princess.
I have a “when it snows in July” story that goes back to the California Pack Trials near the end of March. At the Proven Winners location in Bonsall, Calif., they were proudly showing off a new sweet alyssum known botanically as Lobularia and called Snow Princess.
It was certainly showy, but gardeners across the country would agree that it is not hard to have a fragrant sweet alyssum looking picturesque in the cool March temperatures in the foothills of California. But the marketing pitch was that this plant competes with Diamond Frost as one of the toughest plants ever, and it blooms even in the South during the summer.
When I heard that claim, phrases like “when pigs fly,” “when it snows in July” or even “liar, liar, pants on fire” came to mind.
Then we planted it in our Mississippi State University trials this spring, and it literally exploded into blooms. Then it stopped, and I thought to myself, “See, I knew it wouldn’t last.” But then it started growing and spreading and I remembered hearing one representative say the Snow Princess ate a Supertunia in a basket.
In our trials it started blooming and kept growing. Our June temperatures were hot enough to act like a flame thrower on most lobularias. We had no rain, and we struggled with water and water pressure at our trials. But the blooms increased.
At the Mid-South Greenhouse Growers’ retail Garden Center/Landscape Conference July 22, I told those in the audience about Snow Princess and showed them a photo taken July 21 at the trials. I could see skepticism on their faces and could almost hear them thinking, “When it snows in July.”
But on July 23, we took the audience to the trials to see for themselves. They found that it was snowing in July, and they took pictures of the 4-6 inches that had accumulated. Snow Princess had reached about 6 inches high, filled out its allotted space since planting in April and cascaded over the edge of the box.
I don’t know if it will take August in Mississippi, but I am guessing it will. It has been showboating in our trials for more than 100 days.
Snow Princess prefers fertile, well-drained soil with plenty of sun. Its sea of white will excel as a groundcover, complementing whatever color you choose to partner it with. Be sure to give it room as it will spread 12 to 24 inches.
In addition to the landscape, Snow Princess will dazzle in mixed containers, falling over the edge like a blanket of snow. Plant it where you can enjoy its sweet honey aroma.
There is one thing that makes Snow Princess different from other sweet alyssum or lobularia. This one is touted as a zone 9 plant, meaning it cannot take near as much cold as other sweet alyssums. It can take a lot more heat than the rest, so I’ll take that trade-off and celebrate.
So I have seen snow in July, thanks to Snow Princess. You won’t find it in garden centers now, but put it on your list and buy this must-have plant next spring.