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Features from the Farm 082314

News from the West Central Research and Outreach Center

Steve Poppe

Horticulture Scientist

Esther Jordan

Communications Specialist

2014 top ten performing annual flowers

Lantana “Beach Cities Malibu” (top) and Lobularia “Tetraploid White” (bottom) are two of the top performing annuals in 2014. 

Each year at the University of Minnesota West Central Research and Outreach Center (WCROC) in Morris, hundreds of new cultivars are trialed in the Horticulture Display Garden. In 2014, cultivars from 18 major plant breeding companies from around the world were evaluated based on unique characteristics, exceptional performance, color and vigor under regional conditions.  Only the highest rating cultivars earn the distinction of a Top Ten Performing Annual.  

Angelonia “Archangel Dark Rose” features beautiful spikes of rose pea-like flowers with crimson eyes rising above the foliage from late spring to late summer. The plant reaches 14 inches tall with a spread of 12 inches, and gives the best effect when planted in groupings. Its small fragrant narrow leaves remain green throughout the growing season.  Butterflies are attracted to this plant, but deer tend to stay away from it. It grows best in full sunlight.  

Geranium Interspecific “Sarita Dark Red” is a new type of hybrid geranium that is a cross of the well-known zonal geranium and the ivy-geranium. The Sarita Dark Red is a true bright red color with tremendous vigor, which makes this Geranium stand out above the others. Interspecifics grow best in full sun or part shade.

Impatiens Interspecific “Big Bounce Lilac” is part of the Big Bounce series, which is known to be highly resistant to downy mildew. Unlike New Guinea impatiens, Big Bounce has a nice compact habit and numerous flowers, making it an excellent choice for shade gardens. As the name implies, watch it “bounce” back after wilting without losing blooms or buds.

Lantana “Beach Cities Malibu” features an abundance of brightly covered blossoms through late summer and early fall. This plant tolerates drier conditions, and needs full sun. Beach Cities Malibu attracts butterflies, hummingbirds and is deer resistant. It's easy to grow and performs best in containers.

Lobularia “Tetraploid White” emits a sweet aroma as expressed in its common name: sweet alyssum. Sweet alyssum is typically grown as an annual bedding plant for edging, ground cover purposes and containers. Tetraploid White produces some of the biggest flowers we have seen on an alyssum. The vigorous, 6 inch tall plants are compact, and has extended garden performance.  

Pennisetum “Graceful Grasses Sky Rocket” is an attractive variegated annual grass with graceful arching foliage. This ornamental grass is an excellent counterpart to the showy red-leaf varieties featuring fluffy flower heads in late summer/fall. As an added bonus, the foliage turns a gorgeous brick red in the fall that last into winter. This is a relatively low maintenance annual plant which grows about 24 to 36” in height. It is most effective when planted in groupings.

Petunia “Supertunia Indigo Charm Improved” is a fantastic container plant that will spill over the edges of the container. It is also an incredible landscape plant because of its densely branched plant habit. This plant is self-cleaning with no deadheading required. The purple colored flowers of Indigo Charm will highlight your container combinations.  

Purslane “RioGrande Orange” has big, bold, orange blossoms that open on sunny mornings that cover the plant. Plant habit is trailing and can be grown in containers or in landscape beds as a ground cover. These durable low maintenance plants should be grown in full sun and are drought tolerant.

Torenia “Summer Wave Bouquet Deep Blue” is a profuse blooming annual with rich, blue flowers accented with violet that starts flowering early in the season through fall. Prefers containers over ground plantings, and does best in partial shade. This Torenia forms a compact mound that eventually trails down the sides of pots. Torenia is deer resistant and very attractive to hummingbirds.  

Zinnia “Zahara Starlight Rose” is an All-America Selections winner with stunning white flowers and rose stripes. It is known for its resistance to mildew and leaf spot and its nonstop blooms. Starlight Rose is the first bicolor Zinnia bedding plant. Mature plants reach 12 to 18 inches tall and wide and abound with colorful large blooms all season long.

For more information on annual flower research at the WCROC, please visit