University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science

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CORAL-COLORED FLOWERS

Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor Emeritus
University of Vermont

Each year the Pantone Color Institute, which provides color standards and suggestions for the design industry, chooses a color of the year to feature and that they feel will be popular.  For 2019 the Pantone color choice is Living Coral (16-1546 in their product and fashion design system)—a color that you’ll likely see from product designs to social media to interior furnishings.  Garden products, plants in particular, will showcase this color as well.

If you thought that color was just that, pretty or not, consider this.  Pantone describes this coral color as “an animating and life-affirming shade of orange with a golden undertone.”  They explain the deeper meaning of the color for 2019 as “lying at the center of our naturally vivid and chromatic ecosystem…evocative of how coral reefs provide shelter to a diverse kaleidoscope of color.”  Their analogy connecting nature with our human experience states that “Just as coral reefs are a source of sustenance and shelter to sea life, vibrant yet mellow Pantone 16-1546 Living Coral embraces us with warmth and nourishment to provide comfort and buoyancy in our continually shifting environment.”  So what plants can provide such an experience and feelings?

For annuals with coral-colored flowers, there are Superbena Royale Peachy Keen verbena,  Accent Coral impatiens, SunStanding Helios Coral Aurora New Guinea impatiens, Dreams Chloe Coral Pink begonia, San Francisco hanging begonia, Conga Coral Kiss and  Minifamous Neo Coral Red Eye calibrachoa, and the Coral Fountain amaranthus with its striking long, hanging flowers.

For annual geraniums with coral flowers, look for Maverick Coral, Glitter Orange, or Caliente Hot Coral.  There are several annual zinnias (most are easily grown from seeds), with coral flowers, including Giant Coral, Dreamland Coral, Magellan Coral, and Profusion Double Deep Salmon.  Petunias come in many colors, including the coral Easy Wave Coral Reef, Mambo Salmon, Shockwave Coral Crush, and Limbo Salmon.

For roses, consider Easy Elegance Coral Cove, the English David Austin Boscobel and Jubilee Celebration, and Coral Knock-Out, among others—many of which aren’t hardy in the coldest climates.  While these are listed as hardy to USDA zone 5 (-10 to -20 degrees F average winter minimum), ones listed to the colder USDA zone 4 include Coral Drift, the low groundcover Flower Carpet Coral, and Oso Easy Mango Salsa.

Double Take Peach is a flowering quince shrub in a coral variation (USDA zone 5), as is the fall foliage of the new Fire Dragon miscanthus ornamental grass (listed as hardy to the warmer USDA zone 6, -10F or above average winter minimum).

For perennials with flowers in shades and tints of coral, for the warmer zones (USDA 6 and above) there are Kudos Coral Agastache or anise hyssop, Hot and Cold kniphofia, and Desert Coral coreopsis or tickseed.  Surviving colder temperatures (USDA zone 5) are Sunburst Ruby penstemon or beardtongue and Sunflor Mimi dianthus. Even more hardy (USDA zone 4) are Southern Comfort heuchera or coralbells (for its foliage color), Sombrero Hot Coral coneflower, Dusky Pink (or Pinkie) maltese cross or lychnis, and Fruit Punch Classic Coral dianthus.  Perhaps even hardier to the coldest gardens are the new Coral Crème Drop garden phlox and Princess Victoria Louise oriental poppy.

Daylilies are one of the easiest perennials to grow, and quite hardy.  There are tens of thousands of named daylilies, so it is no surprise that there are some with coral flowers.  A few examples include Congo Coral— a reblooming double, Caribbean Coral has overlapping petals with ruffled edges and a gold center (“throat”) to flowers, Coral Majority has ruffled petal edges and gold throat with red border (“eyezone”), Coral Stone is a pastel coral and pink blend, Chicago Salmon has large flowers with green throats as does Chicago Silky. Coral Sparkler is a miniature with darker eyezone, Coral Crab has is a “spider” type with elongated narrow petals, red eyezone and green throat.   Coral Bouquet daylily is a blend of coral with pink and orange, blooming early in the season with double fragrant flowers. There are many more to choose from, including ones described as peach or salmon or apricot or combinations of these.

Another really easy perennial to grow, living for many years, and hardy, is the peony.  Again, there are so many available that you should be able to find some coral ones such as the semi-double award-winning Coral Charm, the semi-double Coral Sunset that begins the season darker and fades lighter with time, the single Coral n Gold with yellow center, or the choice double Pink Hawaiian coral.  Others feature coral with tints of salmon or pink.

When shopping for flowers in 2019, or any year if you like coral or need coral flowers for a garden design, these are a few to consider for starters.  You likely will find others, especially in the annual flowers.  Some varieties are quite new, so may not be readily available locally, or only found from mail-order growers.  Some are “vegetative”, meaning they’re grown from cuttings so must be purchased as plants.  Others, particularly some of the annual flowers, can be grown yourself from seeds.  While many of these flowers may not be the exact match to the 2019 color of the year, they provide a beautiful range of shades and tints of coral.  Consider pairing them with oranges and yellows for subtle variety, or contrasting blues and purple for a more striking effect.

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