August 2013

Annuals earn top marks in summer trials

Summer trial plants Kong Jr. Scarlet coleus, Arrabona celosia and Zahara Sunburst zinnia. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

Even though I was quite late getting them potted up in containers, several new annuals have earned more than passing grades in their summer trials.

Plant breeders have definitely improved verbena (V. x hybrida). Spectacular this year is Proven Winners’ Violet Ice Superbena. The 3-inch wide balls of violet flowers have white eyes.

Violet Ice Superbena verbena. Photo courtesy Proven Winners

Sun loving and vigorous, Violet Ice gets about 12 inches tall. It has about a 24-inch trail in a container or a 30-inch spread when planted in the ground. Although some of my other trial verbenas have been bitten by spider mites, Violet Ice seems to have been spared. It does not require deadheading.

Double Take Pink geranium (Pelargonium interspecific) from Ball Horticulture is a strong performer, with about a dozen flowers on three plants in a pot. The double flowers with two tones of pink are planted with Sungelonia White, Deep Pink and Blue (Angelonia), a new series from Suntory Collection. Together, they present quite a show. Geraniums should be deadheaded.

Double Take Pink geranium and Sungelonia White, Deep Pink and Blue. (C) Jo Ellen Meyers Sharp

If you like the Kong coleus series (Plectranthus scutellariodes, formerly Solenostemom), you’ll love Kong Jr., from Ball. Kong Jr. Scarlet is planted with Zahara Zinnia Sunburst and Arrabona Celosia. The celosia gets about 14 inches tall and wide.

Although the coleus is labeled for shade, I planted it in the pot that gets full sun. Its heart shaped leaves are about 1/3 smaller than Kong. The mounded plant gets up to 24 inches tall and 35 inches wide.

I have done nothing to this pot except water and fertilize on an irregular basis. Still this sunny container is a spectacular, no maintenance beauty.

Sunburst is the latest outstanding introduction in the Zahara series, which is resistant to powdery mildew, a common disease on zinnias. It is a neat and tidy 18 inch mounded plant that can be deadheaded or not — as the plant grows, it covers up the spent flowers.