Flower Trial Results

Best flowers for your garden!

By: Sandy Feather 2006
Penn State Extension

This is a second part of my 2006 Review of plants' performance in Penn State Cooperative Extension's demonstration gardens in North and South parks. On another page I listed the outstanding performers. This week, it's the good performers and poor performers.

Good performers are those that bloomed well but required regular deadheading to keep them looking their best. Some may have experienced insect or disease problems that did not mar their appearance badly or kill them. Others should be staked to keep them from flopping over their neighbors, especially after a storm. A few bloom too late for us to enjoy for very long but are nonetheless beautiful additions to the garden.

red verbena
Red Verbena

Good performers

  • Prince's feather (Amaranthus cruentus 'Hot Biscuits') -- strikingly large, with dried seeds attractive to small birds. Should be staked to keep from flopping. Good in back of the border.
  • Angelonia (Angelonia angustifolia 'Serena Lavender') -- bloomed most of the summer without deadheading but was done blooming in August. Good in containers as well as beds and borders. More compact than older varieties.
  • 'Butterfly' Marguerite daisy (Argyranthemum) -- strong bloomer that requires significant deadheading. Starts to "melt out" by mid-August, especially when there's lots of rain. Good for beds, borders and large containers.
  • Beach daisy (Asteriscus maritimus 'Aurelia Gold' and 'Compact Gold Coin') -- very low-growing, ground cover-type plants; dense foliage crowds out weeds nicely. Very heat-and drought-tolerant. Did not bloom as much as we would have liked, but worth trying again.
  • Canna -- adds a tropical feel to the garden. Tolerates wet soil and is often grown in ponds but also does well in hot, dry weather.


  • South African foxglove (Ceratotheca triloba) -- large plant with delicate-looking flowers; should be staked. Attractive to pollinators. Very heat- and drought-tolerant. Good in beds and borders.
  • Cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus 'Sonata Mix') -- flowers attractive to butterflies and seedheads attractive to finches. Tended to "melt out" in North Park by late summer because the soil is so rich; does best in soils with low fertility. Use in beds and borders.
  • 'Miracle Pink' and 'Picadilly Orange' twinspur (Diascia) -- outstanding plants for edging, massing and containers. Took a break from blooming during extreme heat in August but came back strong.
  • Lion's ear (Leonotis nepetifolia) -- strikingly large plant with deep orange flowers. Resembles monarda -- really big monarda -- and should be staked. Blooms very late in season. Use in the back of the border.
  • 'Big Blue' lobelia -- stood up to full sun exposure as well as heat and drought. Although it was done by the end of August, it was quite attractive in bloom. Use for edging, massing and containers.
  • Medallion flower (Melampodium paludosum 'Showstar') -- bloomed nonstop with no deadheading. Tolerant of heat and drought as well as wetter weather. Powdery mildew started in September.
  • 'Tinkerbell' nicotiana -- unique flowers are lime green outside and rosy red inside, with blue pollen to really catch your eye. Covered with flowers from the time we planted until mid-fall. Tobacco budworm larvae made a real mess of them by late summer. Use in beds, borders and large containers.
  • 'Compact White' and 'Amethyst' African daisy (Osteospermum) -- clean and problem-free. Heat and drought tolerant. Attractive, but did not bloom enough for us.

  • 'Melon Symphony' African daisy -- bloomed better than the other two varieties, but the plants seemed to struggle all season. They may have been infected with a root rot disease prior to planting. Even when healthy,requires a lot of deadheading to stay attractive.
  • 'Vancouver Centennial' geranium (Pelargonium) -- compact, grown as much for interesting foliage as its flowers. Good in beds and containers.
  • Castor bean (Ricinus communis 'Carmencita Bright Red') -- striking focal point. Suffered from leaf spot disease later in season; did not get as large as they normally do.
  • Copper firethorn (Solanum pyracanthum) -- unique for the bright orange thorns that cover the stems and run down the midrib of every leaf. Does not require much maintenance, luckily for us. No wildlife damage here!
  • Texas salvia (Salvia coccinea 'Coral Nymph') -- long blooming, attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds and pollinators. Heat- and drought-tolerant. Requires some deadheading to keep it attractive.
  • 'Golden Delicious' pineapple sage (Salvia elegans) -- deliciously fragrant chartreuse foliage and clear red flowers; heat- and drought-tolerant. Blooms so late that frost becomes an issue. Leaves make a fruity addition to salads. Severe deer damage in South Park.
  • Anise-scented salvia (Salvia guaranitica 'Black and Blue') -- tolerates heat and drought, long blooming. Attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds and pollinators.

Salvia mix

  • 'Flare' scarlet sage (Salvia splendens) -- Heat- and drought-tolerant, long blooming. Attractive to butterflies, hummingbirds and pollinators. Outstanding cultivar.
  • 'Vista Mix' scarlet sage -- same characteristics as 'Flare' with a nice mix of colors -- red, coral, white and purple.
  • Annual scabiosa (Scabiosa atropurpurea 'Ace of Spades') -- bloomed all summer but required frequent deadheading to look its best. Long-lasting cut flower. Attractive to butterflies and pollinators. Severe deer damage in South Park.
  • 'Snowflake' bacopa (Sutera cordata) -- long-blooming, but plants seemed to "melt out" in summer heat. Best in containers and hanging baskets where these ground-hugging plants can be seen best.
  • Princess flower (Tibouchina urvilleana) -- soft, furry foliage tinged with huge reddish-purple flowers but did not bloom as much as we'd like. No animal damage and no insect or disease problems.
  • 'Caribbean Cocktail' nasturtium (Tropaeolum majus) -- sumptuous, soft shades of pinks and yellows -- too bad those lovely flowers are hidden by the foliage.
  • Garden zinnia (Zinnia elegans 'Envy' and 'Candy Cane') -- long-blooming, attractive to butterflies and pollinators. Powdery mildew a problem later in the season. Good cut flower.

Poor performers

Some plants performed poorly, mainly due to animal damage. A nibble here or there is one thing, but these plants were destroyed!

  • Annual begonia (Begonia semperflorens 'Prelude Scarlet' and 'Varsity Bronze Leaf Scarlet') -- in South Park, deer and groundhog damage.
  • 'Talent Mix' treasure flower (Gazania rigens) -- in North Park, groundhog damage.
  • Gerbera daisy (Gerbera jamesonii) -- deer damage.
  • 'Quartz Mix' verbena -- in South Park, deer damage.


Best bloomers in 2014

More 2006 Flower Trials in the parks

Raised Bed Plantings


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