Accent plants play a strong supporting role in flowerbeds and containers. They can be used as a backdrop for other plants, or as a filler around a primary focus plant. This segment shows several new varieties that work well in our Kansas weather.

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Unique Accent Plants for Patio Pots & Garden Beds

As we design our flowerbeds, we have primary focus plants that draw the eye to it, and then we have others that play a minor, but strong supporting role. We’ll find the same combination of features in our patio planters, which are popular.

In the garden bed, we’re always looking for something a little taller to serve as the background that we view everything against. Or we may have plants on one side or the other with an elevation or height change. In a container, we usually have a tall plant in the center and the rest is filled with smaller plants.

This new Cleome or Spider Flower plant works great for a focus plant. Earlier varieties of the Spider Flower plant or Cleome tended to stretch out and have a straggly appearance that shed a lot of foliage. This new variety is much shorter and more compact. It retains its foliage and blooms profusely all season long. It’s called Senorita Rosalita – a fun name to pronounce.

We also have these two Chrysocephalum plants called Flambé Yellow and Flambé Orange. They are highly heat and drought tolerant. They are good to plant around the edges of a container to add some color. They have a small round ball-shaped flower that stands out and gives some textural change. It’s also very useful in a flowerbed on the ground. They’ll take cool, damp weather, or hot, dry weather. It grows well in Tribune or Colby as well as Kansas City or Wichita. It does very well anywhere in Kansas.

This next plant is a very light and airy filler type flower to use as an accent. The best way to describe this is to think about the roses you’ll find on Valentine’s Day. The florist usually puts Baby’s Breath with it to provide filler and to help accent the red roses. This Euphorbia functions the same way, and we have three examples. Baby’s Breath is a perennial with a short bloom season. But, these Euphorbias bloom throughout the summer – from May until a hard freeze in the fall. It does great and loves the heat and drought. It grows anywhere in the state –from clay soils to sandy soils. And, it’s a self-cleaning flower. With Baby’s Breath, you have to cut out the dead flowers to cosmetically clean up the flowerbed. With the euphorbias, they just seem to evaporate, and you’ll never find a dead flower.

The first variety we’ll examine is Diamond Frost. It was the first one to be introduced. It’s a fantastic plant, and it’s on our Prairie Star list of recommended flowers for the state. We also have two new introductions. Breathless is a little taller than the Diamond Frost. It has a more stretched, lighter, taller, more airy appearance. The Diamond Frost is denser. But they both have a pure white flower that can be used in a variety of ways, because the white is a natural color and provides a good accent.

Breathless Blush is a new introduction. The breeders have put a red variegated center to the leaf, and a red or pinkish blush to the flower. In the right combination of other flowers, it brings the reddish shade out. But, without the right combination, it could look dull or dirty. So, now you have more choices in the Euphorbia plants. The light, airy filler in pots or in the garden gives a textural change and makes it a great accent plant.

This feature story prepared with Alan Stevens, Kansas State University Research and Extension, Retired, Horticulture. For more information, visit your local county extension office or visit our website at

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