Best Performing Plants For Cool, Mountain Regions

Colorado State University 2015 Field Trials - Trial beds

Colorado State University 2015 Field Trials’ Trial beds

Each year, two trials take place in Colorado’s demanding alpine climate: Welby Gardens and Colorado State University (CSU). Between these two gardens, plants get a dose of growing in a climate with late snows, and bouts of too much rain and drought.


The photo gallery show the three best in shows at CSU and the top five performers at Welby this past year. Before taking a look at the top performers, here a brief background on how each arrived at selecting these plants.

How The Colorado State University Trials Work

CSU’s trials took place just a day earlier, on August 3, 2015, and there were about 800 different plant varieties from 31 participating companies.  About 100 industry, seed and vegetative company representatives and advanced Master Gardeners evaluated the trials. A second evaluation took place on September 11, when 15 members of CSU’s Annual Trial Garden Advisory Committee re-evaluated the ‘Best Of’s from the August 3rd evaluation and narrowed the list to the final three best of show picks.

CSU trial gardens experienced a cooler and very wet spring through mid June, while July was more seasonal. In contrast, August through mid-September was hot and dry.

How Welby Gardens Make Their Picks

Welby Gardens invites landscapers, garden retailers and breeders to evaluate how well each plant performs. Each are given 10 poker chips and asked to vote on their favorite plants from among the 886 entries. The chips were color coded, so tabulators could offer feedback on how plants ranked within each profession. The plants shown in the gallery are the top 5 over all. Garden retailers selected the same top 5, although their fourth and fifth picks were swapped in order from the overall list.

All 886 plants were planted in 14-inch planters, including the outdoor performers, and had to endure a late snow on Mother’s Day, as well as 23 days of rain in May and a similar three weeks of rain in June. Evaluation day took place on August 4th. More than 400 local and international industry professionals participated.




More Top Performing Varieties From CSU

  • Angelonia ‘Archangel™ Dark Rose’ from Ball Flora Plant
  • Begonia semperflorens ‘Whopper Red Green Leaf’ from Ball Ingenuity
  • Coleus ‘Color Blaze® Apple Brandy’ from Proven Winners
  • Combo ‘Trixi™ Fairy’ from Selecta
  • Geranium (Interspecific) ‘Big Ezee Neon’ from Red Fox by Dummen Orange
  • Impatiens ‘Bing Bounce™’ Lavender from Selecta
  • Lobularia ‘Lavender Stream’ from Danziger
  • Osteospermum ‘4D Lemon Ice’ from Selecta
  • Petunia (Vegetative spreading) ‘Cascadia Indian Summer’ from Danziger
  • Vinca ‘Mega Bloom Deep Lavender’ from Ameriseed
  • Zinnia ‘Zahara® Double Fire’ from Pan American Seed


Other Outstanding Plants:

  • Angelonia ‘Alonia™ Pink Romance’ from Danziger
  • Lantana ‘Lucky Sunrise Rose’ from Ball Flora Plant
  • Petunia (Seed spreading) ‘Tidal Wave Silver’ from Pan American Seed
  • Verbena ‘Meteor Shower’ from Proven Winners

Consumer Favorites:

  • Dahlia – Mystic Illusion from Dummen Orange
  • Lantana – Lucky Sunrise Rose from Ball Flora Plant
  • Celosia Dragon’s Breath from Sakata
  • Dahlia – Dalaya Red & White from Sakata
  • Coleus – Experimental Red Shades from Sakata

Leave a Reply

Avatar for Susan Shelly Susan Shelly says:

The photo of the Impatiens ‘SunPatiens Spreading Tropical Orange’ gives a great representation of how the plant performs. Height, spread, flower size and coverage in relation to foliage and overall size and scale and in comparison to its neighbors. The rest of the slideshow was close-ups of small groups of flowers which is not very informative. While these photos provide a good idea of what the individual flowers look like, I would much prefer to see the entire plant as the evaluators in the garden do. Perhaps we could see the entire plant the next time around?

Avatar for Jim Borland Jim Borland says:

The trial gardens were hardly in alpine conditions as described in the article. These gardens were at approximately 5,000 ft. elevation. If you want truly alpine conditions you will have to go up another 5,000 ft.

Avatar for Kenneth L. Goldsberry Kenneth L. Goldsberry says:

Right on Jim…. and Welby is a hair lower in elevation. Also, many of the plants in the CSU test garden have AAS testing status and they receive no mention or identified as such. Some of them are grown in cooler climates than Fort Collins and Denver.