CENTER STAGE® Red Lagerstroemia Earns Blue Chip Designation

Proven Winners® ColorChoice® CENTER STAGE® Red Lagerstroemia has earned a 2023 Blue Chip designation from the Louisiana State University (LSU) AgCenter, earning its reputation for beauty and toughness, with exceptional heat tolerance.

The host of the trials, LSU AgCenter, is a research and extension institution that provides information and education related to agriculture, natural resources, and more. One of their programs is the determination of the annual Blue Chip Winners, which identifies the true standouts of their warm season bedding trials in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. This year, the institution gave a Blue Chip designation to five plants, with CENTER STAGE Red Lagerstroemia being the only shrub on their list.

The Blue Chip program started in 2020 during the pandemic lockdowns. While virtual field day videos featured highlights from both the official and unofficial trials, some people were looking for an easy way to identify the clear “winners” of the trials. So, they came up with the Blue Chip program to quickly and conveniently showcase the best plants of the year.

The scoring process for the trials involves evaluating plants on a 1-5 scale. A rating of 1 signifies the plant is dead, while a rating of 5 indicates it's among the most exceptional plants in the garden for that season. To qualify for a Blue Chip designation, a plant must achieve an average score of 4.5 or higher over a span of two seasons.

Ratings take into account quantity and quality of bloom, leaf quality/overall health appearance of the plant, vigor, growth habit, and disease/pest resistance in a no-spray environment. Plants of the same species in the garden that year are assessed together or with well-known market leaders from past trials, then the top plants in each category are chosen.

For the Blue Chip designations, the adjudicators take into account a comparison of top-performing plants across all species in the garden that year, choosing those that had the biggest “wow” or “gotcha” factor.

Jason Stagg, Instructor of Horticulture for LSU AgCenter Hammond Research Station, finds CENTER STAGE Red crapemyrtle to be the most striking of the series, as the red blooms stand out against the dark foliage.

Stagg commented, “Center Stage Red crape myrtle has been one of the most eye-catching plants this year in our warm season trials! The true, bright red flowers are amplified by the lush, nearly black foliage. This series excels at filling a market niche for smaller, shrub-like dark foliage crape myrtles suitable for tight landscaping spaces and even large containers.”

Spring Meadow's Megan Mathey developed the CENTER STAGE Lagerstroemia series with a breeding goal to bump up the bloom date, intensify the foliage color, and reduce the mildew. Mathey has done all that and more, delivering a vigorous, growing, top-flight series of robust crapemyrtle.

Perfect for landscapes, CENTER STAGE Red crapemyrtle features vivacious cerise-colored blooms in summer, is hardy in USDA zones 6b-10 and will grow to 6-12' tall and 8' wide.