Best of the best: Top plant performers at the 2013 MSU Annual Trials

Michigan State University’s Horticulture Demonstration Gardens list of the Top Performing Annuals can give greenhouse growers, landscapers and gardeners some great performing plants to choose from in 2014.

Trial gardensEach year, the Michigan State University Horticulture Demonstration Gardens evaluates hundreds of new annuals grown from seed or cuttings. Trial selections are supplied by over 15 private breeding companies and the plants are grown in MSU greenhouses and transplanted into either ground beds or containers after the last frost has passed which is late May or early June.

The performance of each plant in the trials is evaluated bi-weekly by Department of Horticulture staff on vigor, uniformity, ornamental value-flowers and foliage. In addition, disease and insect susceptibility is noted as well as effects of the climate that season. Plants are rated on a 1.0 (poor) to 5.0 scale with 5.0 being exceptional performers. According to Michigan State University Extension, the purpose of the trial is to grow and evaluate new and old species and cultivars under mid-Michigan growing conditions that include in most years cool springs, hot-humid summers and a frost-free period from mid-May to early October.

All transplants are greenhouse-grown and no plant growth regulators are used. After transplanting to beds or containers, they are fertilized every two weeks, hand-watered as needed, hand-weeded and no fungicide or insecticides are used.

Trial gardensTwelve plants had an average rating of 5.0 for the entire 2013 season. The 2013 top winners included an Angelonia, four Begonias, a Calibrachoa, five Coleus and a Pennisetum. See photos and descriptions of the 12 plants that really caught the attention of the staff doing the ratings.

View the rest of the best for 2013.

Plant performance data from the MSU Trial Gardens is a useful tool for Michigan’s retail greenhouse growers, garden centers, landscapers and the gardening public. MSU Extension recommends choosing plants that have a good performance history which can lead to high customer satisfaction. If you wish to see plants from previous year’s trials, go to the MSU Trial Gardens website.

All photos: Daedre Craig, MSU

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