Perennial picks

Features - Maintenance

Trial garden managers across the United States share their best-performing plants of the year.

© repistu | iStockphoto

In October, several garden managers submitted their best-in-show perennials to our sister magazine, Greenhouse Management. Descriptions of all varieties were submitted by their respective trial garden managers.

Best overall perennials

Coreopsis SunSwirl (Dümmen Orange), Smith Gardens

Great habit with large yellow pom pom flowers. The plants did not split like coreopsis has tendency to do and it was a definite showstopper in the gardens.

Dianthus Rockin’ Red (PanAmerican Seed), Mast Young Plants Garden

Dianthus Rockin’ Red is a dynamite velvety red dianthus that is hardy to Zone 5 and very heat tolerant, flowering all summer.

Echinacea Kismet Raspberry (Terra Nova Nurseries), North Carolina State University

These compact coneflowers were covered in clear raspberry-colored flowers. They started blooming in June.

Best drought-tolerant perennials

Agastache ‘Morello’ (Terra Nova Nurseries), North Carolina State University Garden

‘Morello’ has dense, showy, deep pink-colored flowers that the bees love. Our 100 degree-plus days didn’t keep this showstopper from flowering.

Delosperma Delmara Orange (Green Fuse Botanicals), Mast Young Plants Gardens

This first-year flowering perennial had significantly larger flowers and a heftier habit than other delosperma we have tried.

Echinacea Lakota ‘Santa Fe’ (Proven Winners), Walters Gardens

We’ve been looking for easy-to-grow echinacea for years and one of the best that we’ve found is ‘Santa Fe’. Since it’s from seed, it has slight variation in color, but it’s mostly in the red-orange color range. We’ve been pleased by both its container and landscape performance, and it’s been great on a liner production level as well.

Best pollinator-friendly perennials

Monarda ‘MO 017’ (Dümmen Orange), North Carolina State University Gardens

Monardas are known for being pollinator-friendly and this one did not disappoint. ‘MO 017’ is a compact, well-behaved clumper that blooms prolifically.

Salvia ‘Bumbleberry’, Walters Gardens

‘Bumbleberry’ has performed excellently in our finished plant trials, along with ‘Bumblesky’ and ‘Bumbleblue’. They’re easy to maintain as they are naturally compact, but vigorous enough to finish a container.

Salvia ‘Rose Marvel’, (Darwin Perennials), The Gardens at Ball

The large flower size of this salvia attracted many pollinating bees. The color was vibrant. The rich, deep rose color stood out in the trial beds. The ultra-large flowers provided more color and impact in the garden. ‘Rose Marvel’ also has a long flowering window for extended enjoyment.

Best Heat-tolerant perennials

Sedum Rock ‘N Grow ‘Popstar’ (Proven Winners), Walters Gardens

For most of the year, ‘Popstar’ looks great as a foliage plant with blue-green leaves. Later in the season, it explodes with salmon pink flowers.

Eucalyptus Silver Drop, (Proven Winners), Mast Young Plants Gardens

These silvery foliaged plants make beautiful thrillers in containers or background plantings in a garden bed, and can also be used in dried or fresh flower arrangements. The essential oils in eucalyptus smell great and have a wide range of medicinal uses.

Gaillardia SpinTop Yellow Touch (Dümmen Orange), North Carolina State University Gardens

Nice, compact plants that are covered with large, attractive orange flowers with the edges dipped in yellow.

Chris Manning and Patrick Williams are editors at Greenhouse Management magazine, a sister publication to Lawn & Landscape.