2022 Top Ten Performing Annuals

Nate Dalman, Co-Director Horticulture and Research Professional III, and Esther Jordan, Co-Director Horticulture and Communications Specialist

Dahlia Labella Maggiore Fun Flame
Dahlia Labella® Maggiore Fun Flame

Plant breeding companies from around the world send their annual flower seeds, vegetative cuttings, and unrooted cuttings to the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC), to be part of our prestigious annual flower trial. Seeds begin to arrive in January, while unrooted cuttings and vegetative plugs start to arrive in March, all with the goal of having healthy transplants by the end of May in time for Minnesota’s growing season.

Annuals are grown in hanging baskets, containers, or planted into landscaped beds within the Horticulture Display Garden, which spans over four acres. All annual flowers are on display for public viewing from early June into September. Visitors can take note of their favorite cultivars and to see how plants respond to regional weather conditions.

The 2022 growing season for west central Minnesota was drier and warmer than usual. The average temperatures for June and July were several degrees higher than historically average, and precipitation was several inches less. By late July, we were in a moderate drought. Despite regular irrigation, plants exhibited stress by having longer establishment times after planting, slower growth rates, and less flowering while these conditions persisted.

As part of the annual flower trialing process, plants are evaluated several times during the growing season in order to assess each variety’s performance. We use a 1 to 5 scale for providing a horticultural rating (1=poor, 2=below average, 3=average, 4=above average, 5=excellent). Plants are rated on performance, color, vigor, uniformity of habit and flowering, flowering numbers relative to others, insect and disease resistance, and uniqueness. The data is taken by the same individual every time to reduce variability in scoring. Only the highest rating cultivars earn the distinction as a Top Ten Performing Annual.

Plant breeding companies rely on the valuable feedback from our annual flower trial to market and improve their cultivars. Evaluations from the WCROC annual flower trial are shared with participating plant breeding companies; they may in turn make plant improvements to their cultivars and enter the flower back into trial for another season. Our annual flower report is also made available to commercial nursery producers, floriculture professionals, grower associations, U of MN Extension and U of MN Master Gardeners to provide cultivar recommendations for Minnesota. See the complete list of trial results.

2022 Top Ten Performing Annuals

Begonia Megawatt™ Pink Bronze Leaf Improved

Begonia Megawatt Pink Bronze Leaf Improved in container
Begonia Megawatt™ Pink Bronze Leaf Improved

A large, waxy type begonia with very sturdy stems that support an upright and strong branching habit. Large and abundant blooms with bright pink color all season long throughout varying temperatures. Flowers are held above the striking deep bronze foliage resulting in a nice contrast between flowers and foliage. Performed best in a container located in a shady location.

Celosia Kelos® Candela Pink

A unique and vigorous celosia that performed well in both containers and in the ground. The branching habit promotes multiple inflorescences that continue to grow all season long reaching nearly two feet in length! Despite its height, it stays upright due to its thick stalks. The foliage also has a combination of colors, being a dark maroon in the center and lighter green around the edges adding to this plant’s eye-catching ability. It performed best in full sun.

Dahlia Labella® Maggiore Fun Flame

A dahlia with truly vibrant floral colors: a bright yellow center with scarlet tips. With flowers four inches in diameter, this dahlia is sure to catch your attention. These flowers are held nicely above the foliage on strong, sturdy stalks and remain clean looking longer than other dahlias and are slower to fade and lose their color. The uniform growth habit of this plant also adds to its appeal reaching about 18” wide by 18” tall. Performed best in the ground in full sun.

Lantana Shamrock™ Peach Improved

This prolific blooming lantana has several qualities that set it apart from other lantanas. Most notably is its uniform mounding habit with even growth, and no branches that grow taller than others. The well-balanced combination of pink and yellow flowers created an overall peach-colored appearance which stands above the foliage. Performed best in a container and full sun.

Marigold Mary Orange

Marigold Hedge Mary Orange
Marigold Mary Orange

A hedge type marigold intended to form a hedge-like appearance, and Marigold Mary Orange certainly delivers! Great vigor resulted in rapid growth with abundant foliage even in the center of the plant and abundant blooms held above the foliage. The strong stalks supported the tall growth of the plant without breaking or snapping off. This marigold had uniform growth habit across all plants and reached a size of 18” wide and 30” tall. Performed best in full sun and in the ground.

Petunia Supertunia Mini Vista® Midnight

This spreading type of petunia provides an endless supply of blooms all season long despite changes in weather conditions. The dark blooms stand out nicely against the foliage and attracts a lot of attention. This plant spreads evenly up to 24” wide and stays filled in all season without losing foliage at the plant’s center. It reaches a height of 8” which helps make it a great border. Performed best in the ground in full sun.

Portulaca Mojave® Yellow 2023

This portulaca produced large, bright, vibrant yellow flowers. Spreading to nearly two feet in diameter, the blooms covered the entire plant and not just the newer growth. Known to be very drought tolerant, this plant can handle conditions many others cannot. In addition to catching the eyes of numerous garden visitors, it is a bee magnet for a multitude of species. It performed best in the ground in a retaining wall with dryer and warmer growing conditions.

Scaevola Abanico Blue

Scaevola Abanico Blue in hanging basket
Scaevola Abanico Blue

An intermediate sized scaevola and a strong trailing habit make it perfect for hanging baskets. Showing strong vigor from the start, it produced abundant light blue flowers early in the season and continued all summer long. The blooms covered the entire plant due to its branching and trailing habit. This plant performed best in a hanging basket in full sun.

Vinca Mega Flow® Orchid

Mega Flow® Orchid is a trailing vinca with very uniform growth and is also self-cleaning resulting in flowers always looking very clean and neat. The large flowers stand out nicely against the dark green lush foliage. Abundant flowers are present all season long despite the weather and cover the plant thanks to the strong branching habit. It performed best in a hanging basket in full sun.

Zinnia Zydeco™ Fire

This zinnia exhibits true fully double flowers. Not only that, but also great disease resistance which leads to the clean appearance of both the foliage and flowers. The large, bright orange flowers standing above the foliage are sure to attract attention all season long. With a branching habit, this plant has uniform growth that appears compact despite its size of 18” wide and 12” tall. It performed best in full sun in the ground.

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. The Horticulture Display Garden has been an All-America Selections (AAS) Display Garden since 1990. The AAS award recognizes a flower or vegetable variety proven to have superior performance throughout the North American continent. An AAS Display Garden provides the public an opportunity to view the new AAS winners in an attractive well-maintained setting.  Additionally, the Horticulture Display Garden is the only AAS Trial Ground site in Minnesota, where AAS entries are planted next to comparisons and evaluated by an AAS Trial Judge.

Voted as the “Best Public Display Garden in Minnesota” by WCCO, the Horticulture Display Garden is truly a gem in the Upper Midwest.

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.