The Must-Have, Field Trial-Proven Plants

Argyranthemum 'Flutterby Yellow'

Each year around the United States, hundreds of new plant varieties are tested. We’ve broken down the results of 13 trials at university demonstration gardens, Extension plots and commercial grower operations, to offer you plants that meet the highest performance standards.


Midwest Region

Michigan State, Best in Show:
Pennisetum Graceful Grasses ‘Vertigo’
“This Proven Winners entry has performed well in our trials two years in a row now,” says Katie McCarver, annuals trial ground manager in East Lansing. “It creates a very dramatic backdrop to other more colorful annuals. It looks great planted en masse or used as a specimen in a container. It is very vigorous and grows very quickly, reaching 4 feet tall in one season.”

C. Raker & Sons, Best in Show:
Angelonia angustifolia AngelMist Series
“Compact and loaded with flowers, this series spreads well, and fills out containers very nicely,” says Greg Michalak, Raker’s trials manager.

Ohio State, Best in Show:
Hibiscus ‘Mahogany Splendor’
“This was, without a doubt, the top among the consumer favorites,” says Lindsay Diewald, annual trials manager. “Its height (about 7 feet in our trials), deep reddish-purple color, and fine-textured, Japanese maple-like leaves caught everyone’s attention. Be sure to give it plenty of room.”

University of Illinois, Best in Show:  
Petunia ‘Famous Violet Picotee’
“What eye-opening flower power this pretty petunia provides,” says C. Diane Anderson, trials manager. “The rim is pure white and contrasts beautifully with the large violet center. Lovely in a mixed container with white or silver.”

Southeastern Region

Mississippi State, Best in Show:
Ornamental Corn ‘Field of Dreams’
“This variety is easy to grow; can be sown in pots or directly in the ground,”  says Eugene Blythe, trials manager at the South Mississippi Branch Experiment Station in Poplarville. “Its colorful variegated foliage made this variety quite unique; an added bonus is the colorful, ornamental corn cobs that can be saved for fall displays.”

Louisiana State, Best in Show:
Salvia ‘Summer Red Jewel’
“A shorter, more compact, more weather-resistant Salvia coccinea, this selection stayed in constant bloom from mid spring through the fall,” says Allen Owings, horticulture professor, LSU AgCenter. “Darker red flowers than some other cultivars in the species.”
North Carolina State, Best in Show:
Begonia ‘Whopper Rose Bronze Leaf’
“The name says it all! These plants have massive-sized leaves that are topped with beautiful flowers. This series was by far the best performing begonia in the trials this season,” says Bernadette Clark, trial garden manager at NCSU’s JC Raulston Arboretum.

University of Tennessee, Best in Show:

Lantana ‘Luscious Citrus Blend’
“This vivid lantana was attention-grabbing all season long,” says Beth Willis, trials coordinator at UT Gardens in Knoxville. “A vigorous grower to 42 inches tall, it displayed a mounding habit.”

Western Region

Colorado State, Best in Show:
Argyranthemum ‘Flutterby Yellow’
“Intense flowering and bright yellow color makes this variety standout from anywhere in the garden,” says Jim Klett, professor and extension landscape horticulture specialist at CSU in Fort Collins. “Plants were uniform both in growth habit and flowering. Constant bloom throughout the summer made it rank the highest.”

North Dakota State, Best in Show:
Salvia ‘Summer Jewel Red’
“This salvia had good uniformity in size and bloom,” says Barb Laschkewitsch, research specialist and trial garden coordinator at NDSU in Fargo. “It had no disease or insect problems and was a continuous bloomer all summer. It also paired well with the blue salvias.”
Southwestern Region

Texas A&M, Best in Show:
Hibiscus ‘Mahogany Splendor’
“This plant stood up to the record heat of 2011 like a trooper,” says Brent Pemberton, professor at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center, Overton, Texas. “It did well in full sun as well as partial shade. The foliage remained a beautiful deep maroon red all summer long.”

Oklahoma State, Best in Show:
Lobelia ‘California Dark Blue with Eye’
“This put on a stunning show with an ultra-deep blue,” says Haldor Howard, trials manager. “Considering that Lobelia erinus is not generally considered much of a summer performer (or even survivor) in this climate, the persistence of the show through our hottest recorded summer was far beyond expectations.”

Northeastern Region

Massachusetts Horticultural Society Top performers for the region include:
• Osteospermum ‘3D Silver’
• Geranium (Zonal) ‘Allure True Red’
• Petunia ‘Supertunia Raspberry Blast’
• Petunia ‘Supertunia Sangria Charm’
• Begonia ‘Whopper Red Green Leaf’
• Coleus ‘Wasabi’
• Lantana ‘Luscious Lemonade’GG