Every plant trial is different. Each trial garden has different weather conditions, sunlight levels, water needs and other factors that make each location unique. That can make knowing which plants are best to grow at your operation a difficult question to answer. It’s a tough question for consumers, too, who want something that will thrive and look beautiful in a pot on their back patio or in their landscape.
Fortunately, trial gardens are here to help fill in the knowledge gap. Run, organized and staffed by trial managers who track every little detail of every plant in their gardens, trial gardens help growers understand new varieties of annuals and perennials. They also test for different attributes like pollinator friendliness and drought tolerance, and note which plants have the ‘wow’ factor consumers are looking for.
For our 2019 compilation of trial garden results, managers from across the U.S. submitted what performed best in their region in the following eight categories: best drought-tolerant annual, best drought-tolerant perennial, best pollinator-friendly annual, best pollinator-friendly perennial, best heat-tolerant annual, best heat-tolerant perennial, best overall performance: annual and best overall performance: perennial.
On the following pages, you’ll find the results from the best overall performance: annual category. All of the descriptions have been submitted by the various trial garden managers. The full results — including pictures — are available online here.
All photos courtesy of respective trial gardens
Best Overall Performance Annuals
Calibrachoa Superbells ‘Honeyberry,’ Proven Winners, University of Georgia
Yep, I’m smitten with this plant and who wouldn’t be? I love that it has abundant pink flowers with honey-colored throats. It has remained perfectly shaped despite rain, shine, heat and humidity. Nothing phased ‘Honeyberry,’ which decidedly takes my top spot for annuals for 2019.
Caladium Bottle Rocket, Classic Caladiums, Young’s Plant Farm
The colors of Bottle Rocket caladium are phenomenal. This caladium has everything: dark red, crisp white and bright green. This is a large fancy-leafed variety that just got better in the heat of the summer. It was really a standout in the Young’s Trial Garden.
Helianthus ‘Suncredible Yellow,’ Proven Winners, North Carolina State University
These uniform, well-branched, upright plants have rays of bright yellow petals around a brown center. Flowers are supported by sturdy stems, which make them great for cuts. They bloom all season long and no deadheading is required. Pollinators love these guys!
Best Overall Performance Annuals
Alternanthera FanciFillers Choco Chili, Westhoff, Penn State University Extension
An excellent plant, with no foliar injury all season. This plant received an overall score of 5/5 in 2019. As a foliage plant, it exhibited superb growth and maintained a uniform habit. A number of visitors remarked on the foliar quality during field day.
Begonia Fragrance Falls Peach, Beekenkamp, Plantpeddler
This annual features large, trailing pink flowers over lush, green cascading foliage. This beautiful hanging begonia withstood almost everything Mother Nature threw at it. It handled full sun to part sun and stayed in color through it all. Hot, cool, humid, dry: it’s a plant for all seasons.
Helianthus ‘Suncredible Yellow,’ Proven Winners, Boerner Botanical Gardens
There were so many good annuals this year. This baby bloomed its heart out and didn’t get floppy until the end of September. It was also a favorite of pollinators and guests alike.
Impatiens Beacon, PanAmerican Seed, The Gardens at Ball
This plant did not fail due to Impatiens downy mildew, and we had it planted in several locations on campus. Our shade landscape beds particularly looked amazing, and several guests made a stop there to take pictures and take notes.
Petunia Shortcake Blueberry, Syngenta Flowers, Mast Young Plants
A versatile habit that works well in small pots and combos, this annual will still size up for an impressive display in the garden. It has a grower-friendly habit and a unique, stable flower pattern.
Petunia Color Rush White, Ball Seed, Raker-Roberta’s Trial Gardens
This petunia was the winner in our blind White Petunia trial, a visitor favorite and top performer. It was always full of flowers and didn’t split.
Best Overall Performance AnnualsDahlia ‘City Lights Purple,’ Selecta, Colorado State University
This dahlia was Best of Show at Colorado State University. The dark foliage and flowers of this variety made a dramatic statement in the garden. The growth habit had excellent uniformity with upright plants that did not flop despite overhead irrigation. They had strong flower power and were favorites of the bees.
Best Overall Performance Annauls
Begonia Viking XL Red on Chocolate, Sakata, Smith Gardens
Amazing dark glossy foliage and contrasting red flowers made this variety a real standout in the garden this year. It has a vigorous, well-branched habit and great landscape performance.