2018 Top Ten Performing Annuals

Steve Poppe, Horticulture Scientist and Esther Jordan, Communications Specialist

Vinca Mega Bloom Orchid Halo
Vinca Mega Bloom Orchid Halo

Annual flower variety trials for the University of Minnesota are conducted at the West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) Horticulture Display Garden in Morris, MN. The purpose of the trial program is to evaluate the performance of annual flowers based on regional conditions for west central Minnesota. All annual flowers on trial are landscaped into an impressive pubic display garden, which is visited by thousands each year. Through the annual flower trials, our hope is to educate and inspire consumers to create even more beautiful and successful gardens.  

In addition to the annual flower trials, the WCROC Horticulture Display Garden also serves as an All-America Selections (AAS) Display and Trial Garden. An AAS Display Garden introduces AAS Winners to the public, while an AAS Trial Ground has AAS entries planted side-by-side to comparisons for evaluation by an AAS Trial Judge. 

In 2018, nearly 400 cultivars were trialed through the U of MN annual flower variety trial. As part of the evaluation criteria, cultivars are rated based on their unique characteristics, exceptional performance, color and vigor under regional conditions. Once the final evaluations are completed, only the top rated annual flowers are considered for the distinction of being called a Top Ten Performing Annual.

The Horticulture Display Garden is open daily from dawn until dusk; admission is free. Voted as the “Best Public Display Garden in Minnesota” by WCCO, the Horticulture Display Garden is truly a gem in the Upper Midwest. 

2018 Top Ten

Coleus ColorBlaze Golden Dreams
Coleus Colorblaze® Golden Dreams™

Coleus Colorblaze® Golden Dreams™ has colorful chartreuse foliage with red veins. It thrived in our garden bed and grew extremely uniform in a semi-shaded area. Unlike other coleus, Golden Dreams™ produces very few flowers, keeping the outstanding foliage in top shape.

Dahlia City Lights™ Purple was an exceptional Dahlia that bloomed profusely from planting into early fall 2018.  The beauty of City Lights™ Purple is its vigorous plant habit, clean dark foliage, and large flowers that really popped. Requires occasional deadheading for neat appearance. 

Euphorbia Diamond Mountain™ offered continuous airy and delicate white flowers all season long. We trialed Diamond Mountain™ in a large container grown in full sun, and it provided a knock-out presence in the landscape. Diamond Mountain™ is also perfect for mixing with other vigorous plants. Grow moist, but don’t overwater. Supplemental fertilizer is advised to help ensure the best possible performance.

Lantana Chapel Hill™ Pink Huff

Petunia Dekko™ Red maintained bright vibrant red flowers all season long with no fading. This Petunia had exceptional performance with numerous flowers in a hanging basket and the display garden in 2018.  Offers a vigorous mounding spreading habit with a plant spread of 18” to 24”.

New Guinea Impatiens Sunstanding Orange Aurora was trialed in a hanging basket, grown in full sun and offered striking bright orange blooms during the growing season. With a uniform compact plant habit, Sunstanding Orange Aurora earned four excellent plant ratings during our evaluation season. 

Salvia Rockin' Deep Purple proved to be a magnet for pollinators by attracting hummingbirds, bees and butterflies. Rockin’™ Deep Purple is a fantastic annual with rich black to purple flowers and excellent for use as a garden background with a height of 30” to 40”. A real eye catcher, this Salvia was also voted as one of our top “Consumer Favorites” of 2018.

Torenia Summer Wave® Large Violet has dazzling purple flowers that bloomed all season long in a filtered-sun area of our garden. Grown in a container, Summer Wave® Large Violet had the most vigorous trailing habit of the Torenia’s we trialed in 2018 which earned it excellent plant rating throughout the growing season.

Verbena Firehouse Grape
Verbena Firehouse™ Grape

Verbena Firehouse™ Grape had the highest horticultural rating as compared to the other trialed verbena this growing season. It received this high rating because of its continued season long high flower numbers and its bold grape color. Firehouse™ Grape grew well in both the garden and a container with no evidence of powdery mildew disease.

Vinca Mega Bloom Orchid Halo is a former AAS winner for its superior garden performance. Orchid Halo produced huge, bright purple blossoms with a wide white eye, creating a striking look in our full sun garden location.& While Vinca don’t typically like to be wet in any stage of growth, this variety rebounded extremely well after excessive early summer rains to become one of our top ten annual flowers.

All flowers in the Horticulture Display Garden 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. The Garden is located at 46352 State Hwy 329, Morris, MN. Location and directions to the Horticulture Display Garden.