2015 Top Ten Performing Annuals

Steve Poppe, Horticulture Scientist

Esther Jordan, Communications Specialist

One of the largest and most impressive displays of annual flower varieties and cultivars in the Upper Midwest can be found at the University of Minnesota (U of MN) West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) Horticulture Display Garden in Morris, MN.  Voted as the Best Public Display Garden in MN by WCCO/CBS Minnesota in August 2015, the Garden features annual flower cultivars from plant breeding companies around the world. 

Annual flowers are evaluated on unique characteristics, exceptional performance, color and vigor under regional conditions.  Only the highest rating cultivars earn the distinction of a Top Ten Performing Annual.  The goal of evaluating this vast array of cultivars is to develop recommendations for Minnesota.

Even though the annual flowers are under evaluation, the plants are placed into an aesthetically pleasing design, allowing visitors to enjoy the beauty of the Garden.  All flowers are labeled, allowing visitors to take note of top performing cultivars under regional conditions.  The Horticulture Display Garden is open daily from dawn until dusk; admission is free.  


Begonia Solenia Apricot

Begonia Solenia® Apricot produces amazingly large blossoms of three inch peach frilly flowers from mid-spring to early fall.  This Begonia is a hybrid cross between a tuberous begonia and a wax begonia.  Solenia Apricot is a high maintenance annual bedding plant which requires dead-heading to keep it looking nice.  Deer don’t particularly care for this plant, and will usually leave it alone in favor of tastier plants.

Begonia x benariensis BIG® Red Green Leaf  If looking for a quick blooming vigorous begonia, it’s hard to beat BIG Red Green Leaf.  Although the fire-engine bright crimson red flowers are exceptional, the combination of the glossy green foliage is outstanding.  BIG Red Green Leaf grows well in partial shade, and grows to a height of about 20” and is perfect for a mass planting.

Calibrachoa Superbells® Garden Rose has abundant, small petunia-like flowers all season long.  Superbells® Garden Rose features distinctive, shiny, striking flowers that don’t fade in the summer heat.  This variety has long, trailing branches cascading over the sides of hanging baskets. Superbells® Garden Rose is a low maintenance plant with no necessary deadheading, and perks back up after a rain and stays compact and bushy.


Coleus Broad Street

Coleus Broad Street features burgundy leaves with a lime green edge and was an outstanding performer in our 2015 display garden.  Grown in partial shade in a garden bed, Broad Street is extremely compact and uniform and grows to a height of about 20”.

In general, coleus is a durable plant with significant gardening potential for a wide range of gardeners.  Coleus has a long history of use as a foliage plant; its ease of establishment after planting combined with a wide range of selections has made coleus a popular favorite for gardens and containers.  Coleus was the annual selected as the National Garden Bureau’s Annual of the Year for 2015.

Dahlia Hypnotica® Lavender   These outstanding dahlia plants bloom profusely from planting into early fall.  The beauty of Hypnotica Lavender is its vigorous plant habit, clean foliage and large flowers that were real eye catchers in our garden beds.  The lavender blooms compliment many other planting companions.  Requires occasional deadheading for a neat appearance.

Dianthus Jolt™  Pink is a 2015 All-America Selections bedding plant award winner.  This dianthus has large, showy flower heads on strong stems that perform extremely well all summer long.  Jolt Pink has bright pink fringed flowers, and is an easy to grow and trouble-free annual for the gardener looking for neat and tidy low-maintenance flower varieties.

Geranium Pinto™  Premium Lavender Rose  A seed type geranium from the Pinto series,   Premium Lavender Rose is a great garden performer with uniform plant habit and early flowering.  Its most appealing feature is the disease-free clean foliage all season long.  Premium Lavender Rose is an outstanding seed geranium; perhaps the best we’ve trialed at the U of MN.

Impatiens Walleriana Lollipop Fruit Punch Rose

Impatiens walleriana Lollipop Fruit Punch Rose

Impatiens walleriana Lollipop™ Fruit Punch Rose is an outstanding impatiens from greenhouse to garden with exceptional uniform plant habit, growth and vigor.  The rose flowers provide an intense pop of color throughout the entire growing season.  The Lollipop™ series also comes in other colors including Orange, Raspberry Violet, Cherry Red, Pomegranate Carmine, Coconut White and Peach Salmon.

Petunia Surfinia® Sumo™ Pink offers a vigorous, full mounding habit of hot pink flowers in a landscape bed.  Buds open continuously from the center and all along the stems, so there are no "flat-topped" or empty-centered plants as the season progresses.  Surfinia Sumo™ Pink is perfect for large containers and hanging baskets because its unique habit changes from mounding to trailing.

Portulaca Mojave® Tangerine   This durable and colorful flowering succulent blooms profusely all summer long without deadheading.  The flowers of Portulaca close at night and reopen with sunlight.  Mojave® Tangerine performed well for us in a block wall planter next to an asphalt parking lot with limited moisture.  Mojave® Tangerine is a great plant choice for warm climates and poor, drier soils.

Want to know more?  Visit our flower research page.  Print out a copy of the 2015 Top Ten Performing Annuals, which includes specific variety descriptions, honorable mentions, and flower photos.