2019 Top Ten Performing Annuals

Steve Poppe, Horticulture Scientist and Esther Jordan, Communications Specialist

Our Minnesota climate can be unique, with wet and rainy spring months and dry hot summers. This can present challenging growing conditions, especially for annual bedding plants.

We’ve been conducting horticulture research at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), Morris, for nearly 100 years. With over four acres of impressive public display gardens including 400 annual cultivars on display, we offer an educational landscape for home owners, Master Gardeners, and flower enthusiasts alike to see just how annual flowers perform under our unique growing conditions.

Annual flowers are thoughtfully placed into aesthetically pleasing landscapes, allowing visitors to take note of their favorite cultivars. All plants are labeled; flowers are located in garden beds, hanging baskets, and containers.

"Through the Horticulture Display Garden at the WCROC, we can teach others how to become good stewards of the land and challenge imaginations to create beauty in our own backyards. The Garden offers numerous examples of innovative design, use of color and adaptive plantings. It is essential that flower research continues to ensure that we have hardy, well-suited plants for the next generation of gardeners.” - Sara Thronsedt, West Otter Tail Master Gardener

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. 

Plant breeding companies from around the world participate in our annual flower trial, which is held each year. All annuals are evaluated multiple times throughout the growing season; 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. See our complete list of trial results

2019 Top Ten

Begonia x benariensis BIG® Pink Bronze Leaf offers striking, continuous flowers which cover the plant with vibrant color throughout the summer with no deadheading. Has sturdy flower stems that hold flowers above the lush foliage. Performed equally superior in the garden as well as in a large container; well-suited for sun or shade.

Calibrachoa Cabaret® Good Night Kiss has an attractive eye-catching flower pattern featuring a star center. This semi-trailing Calibrachoa has excellent garden performance and grows evenly and uniformly in a large hanging basket.

Calibrachoa Superbells® Watermelon Punch™ out of the nearly 20 calibrachoa we trialed in 2019, this was our favorite. Provides continuous, abundant coral pink with black eye flowers all season long. Watermelon Punch™ proves to have a higher tolerance to the fungal diseases that often can affect Calibrachoa.

Coleus Heartbreaker is outstanding in both a large container and in the garden landscape. This low maintenance yet vigorous coleus doesn’t fade; it’s bright lime green and raspberry colored foliage stayed true throughout the growing season. Heartbreaker is easy to grow, very uniform in growth and performs equally well in sun or shade. It’s also a perfect complement to other plants in the landscape.

Impatiens Beacon™ Salmon grown from seed, this Impatiens thrived in a hanging basket in our semi-shaded area. Of the six Beacon™ series impatiens in our 2019 trial, this variety has more vigor than the other five. These low-maintenance plants are perfect for gardeners looking for impatiens that offer high resistance to downy mildew disease. 

Marigold Big Duck Orange is an AAS winner that bloomed throughout the entire growing season. Four-inch, full double orange blooms paired with clean, deep-green foliage provided a stunning display during the summer. This marigold is perfect for the gardener looking for an easy-to-grow annual from seed.

Petunia ColorRush™ Pink produced a prolific number of eye-catching blooms all season-long. Its leaves remained clean and green in color throughout the season. ColorRush™ Pink fills a three-foot space with exceptional no-fade color, all without spreading out of control.

Petunia Supertunia® Mini Vista™ Indigo IMP is another cultivar that does very well in both a large container and in a garden bed. Mini Vista™ Indigo was completely covered in blue-purple flowers all season long. Maintenance is easy with this annual. They are self-cleaning with no deadheading necessary.

Verbena EnduraScape™ Pink Bicolor is a continual long-blooming verbena that was named an AAS winner in 2017. EnduraScape™ Pink Bicolor makes for an exceptional edging along a walkway or border. Its soft pink blossoms are a real eye-catcher.

Zinnia Magellan™ Pink is a vigorous variety that had good disease tolerance during our wetter than normal 2019 growing season. Magellan™ Pink is a compact bushy plant, 12-18 inches high and 15-18 inches wide and is smothered all season with daisy-formed blooms. Plant in large groupings for best effect. For optimum performance, plant zinnias in a well-drained garden soil (pictured).  

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.