Winners’ circle: 14 award-winning varieties to stock your benches
Adding new varieties to your retail bench is critical for increased sales as new trends emerge and consumers’ wants and needs shift. Choosing new varieties that are tried and true can help you set your customers up for success.
Each year, Lawn & Garden Retailer combines a list of award-winning varieties from All-America Selections, Fleuroselect, the Association of Specialty Cut Flower Growers, the American Hosta Growers Association and the Perennial Plant Association. These organizations aim to ensure the success of breeders, growers, retailers and gardeners. They test numerous plants in search of those with the most reliable performance, beauty and versatility.
All-America Selections (AAS)
Marigold ‘Siam Gold F1’
Thai Home Seeds
‘Siam Gold’ has beautiful, mounded foliage that produces globe-like, fully double golden flowers all season long. The large flowers are held on top of sturdy stems and above the foliage for full color visibility, making a striking focal point in the garden. The uniformity of the plant gives a neat, tidy appearance in the garden. ‘Siam Gold’ is excellent for cut flowers, and no staking is needed.
Coleus ‘Premium Sun Coral Candy’
The first seed coleus with AAS Winner designation, Coral Candy features unique, multicolored foliage on a uniformly compact plant. This new plant form has narrow, serrated leaves that drape down the mounded plants. AAS judges noted it holds its color well, even when grown in full sun. It’s perfect for small-space gardens, and just three seeds will produce enough substance to fill a 14- to-16-inch container.
Colocasia ‘Royal Hawaiian Waikiki’
AAS has another first — a colocasia winner. Trialed in the non-seed container trial, this wowed with its sturdy, large, glossy leaves that unfurled with a bold leaf coloration featuring pink veins and creamy white centers. These striking colors are produced earlier than other variegated leaf colocasia. The deep burgundy stems produce a lush, compact plant that holds up well even in wind and rain.
Salvia ‘Blue by You’
This perennial features rich blue flowers that bloom up to two weeks earlier than the comparisons. With excellent winter hardiness and heat tolerance, ‘Blue by You’ will be a new favorite in perennial, pollinator, cutting and container gardens. Bursting with bright blue blossoms from late spring into fall, the plant provides repeat blooms throughout the season when spent blooms are removed. Hardy in Zones 4b-9a.
Snapdragon ‘DoubleShot Orange Bicolor F1’
Part of a new series of intermediate-height snaps perfect for the garden or as cut flowers, this variety has stunning open-faced double flowers that emerge in beautiful warm shades of orange and orange-red that transition to a dusty shade as they age. AAS judges were impressed with the strong stems that produced more branches, resulting in a higher flower count.
Gold Medal Winners
Helianthus ‘Desire Red’
‘Desire Red’ is a dwarf Helianthus annuus with unique russet flowers and a deep, rich red color. It’s an early, profusely flowering variety — new blooms form continuously on its multiple branches well into autumn and blend with its dark green foliage. It can be cultivated successfully as a high-quality pot plant in gallon containers but is also suitable for production in smaller pots.
Tomato ‘Tiny Temptations F1 Orange’
This new cherry tomato stands out not only for its bright orange fruits, but also for its ultra-sweet flavor. Multiple branches bear a constant supply of new fruits, and the bush plants with their small, sturdy green leaves are highly tolerant to phytophthora. The flowers are a magnet for bees. It can be produced without pinching or the use of plant growth regulators.
Gazania ‘Zany Sunny-Side Up’
This gazania has bicolored flowers with golden-orange petals blending into light-yellow tips that are truly unique. The plants of this new variety are consistent in growth and produce numerous large, color-stable flowers that open earlier and longer on cloudy days. The seeds are coated with BeGreen, meaning no chemicals or microplastics were used, and growers can cultivate in pots and packs.
Hosta of the Year
In spring, the narrow, wedge-shaped leaves of this hosta are bright glaucous blue and hold their color well. As the season progresses, they turn more blue-green. The heavily rippled leaves are of good substance, displaying some slug resistance, and the cascading form makes it fitted for a ledge or in a container. Lavender flowers are produced on arching scapes in late summer to early fall.
Perennial Plant of the Year
Garden Phlox ‘Jeana’
‘Jeana’ has an impressive flower show, sturdy habit and pollinator friendliness. Dense, domed trusses crown stiff stems from midsummer to early fall. Individually, the fragrant lavender-pink flowers are significantly smaller than typical garden phlox — only about half an inch wide — but the show at peak is eye-popping. It can reach 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide, although size will vary geographically. Its bright green leaves are highly resistant to powdery mildew.
Cut Flowers of the Year
Lisianthus ‘Voyage 2 Champagne’
The Voyage series offers huge, ruffled blooms of blushy golden pink. One Zone 6 grower reported stems at least 24 inches long grown in a tunnel. The flowers are ideal for wedding bouquets. This lisianthus provides a perfect color choice for later summer or early fall floral designs.
Hydrangea ‘Pinky Winky’
This Hydrangea paniculata features two-tone flower heads with both white and pink florets, if harvested before all florets turn pink. Plants are adaptable and durable from Zones 3 to 8. Cut them back hard after harvest to encourage long, non-branchy stems. Cut flower growers love the structure of these blooms, which provide gorgeous blooms, whether used fresh or dried.
Double Tulip ‘Dream Touch’
Long, strong stems, and a unique, moody flower color combination of green striping on purple petals make this a favorite of both growers and florists. The variety has a long postharvest life. Some tulips are challenging to design with, but the more rigid stems of ‘Dream Touch’ are perfect for bouquets.
Eucalyptus ‘Silver Dollar’
Eucalyptus is in high demand as a specialty cut, and ‘Silver Dollar’ fits the bill with its extremely long stems that are easy to work with and its unique silvery color. It’s more fragrant than most eucalyptus, making it the most popular to sell retail. It’s easy to grow, extremely low-maintenance, disease- and pest-resistant, and can last as long as two weeks postharvest.
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