Hot Annuals for a Cool Spring

 A bit about the author:  Julie Harris has been a Master Gardener for several years and has led various flower trial gardens at the Master Gardener Education, Research and Display Gardens, at the Rosemount Research and Outreach Center (RROC).  She has held leadership positions in the Master Gardener program and has participated in a number of other outreach activities.

It is finally warm enough to allow your tender annuals to venture outside.  Time to visualize your garden color schemes and choose the ‘thrillers, spillers and fillers’ that will become your fabulous container displays.  Looking for inspiration?  For great information about annuals that will prosper in Minnesota, take a look at  If you still like the feel of paper in your fingers, check out Annuals for Minnesota and Wisconsin by Don Engebretson and Don Williamson

The All-America Selections (AAS) website is another  online resource for great new annuals.  This organization tests new annuals at trial grounds all over the U.S. and Canada.  Each year, judges score the new varieties on qualities such as novel colors, length of flowering, disease or pest resistance and overall performance.  Only those varieties that achieve a superior score are declared AAS winners.  The All-America Selections organization has named its 2013 award winners.  Pictures can be found on the website above for the next four plants.

Canna “South Pacific Scarlet’ is grown from seed and is more vigorous and uniform than other canna varieties.  It grows 24inches tall and wide with showy orange 4 ½ inch blooms.

Can there ever be too many geraniums?  Not if they continue to develop winners like Geranium Pinto Premium ‘White to Rose.’  This plant grows 12 inches tall and wide.  The numerous blooms start out white then deepen to rose-pink.

Zinnias have been frequent AAS Winners lately.  The newest winners are Zinnia Profusion ‘Double Hot Cherry’ and Profusion ‘Double Deep Salmon.’  The flowers have double petals, on 3 inch blooms.  The plants stand 14 inches tall and 24 inches wide.

During the summer of 2012, the Master Gardeners of Dakota County chose several AAS award winners to display and trial in our education, research and display garden at the Rosemount Research and Outreach Center (RROC) in Rosemount.  Master Gardeners grew and observed these plants over the summer to see how AAS winners perform in our neighborhood.  Check out these standouts:

Cleome Sparkler ‘Blush’ is a 2002 AAS winner.  At 20-36 inches tall, this airy plant is shorter but sturdier than many Cleomes and sports abundant pink blooms.

Cleome Sparkler ‘Blush’

‘Purple Majesty’ Millet’ is a 2003 AAS Winner whose green leaves turn to purple in the sun.  It grows an impressive 3-5 feet tall and offers 8-12 inch flower stalks.  Hint – look for a new ornamental millet– ‘Jade Princess.’  We trialed this fabulous new millet developed by Ball Horticultural Company.  It is a little shorter than its purple cousin at 26 inches tall but it has bright, lime green foliage and thick, fuzzy stalks that are just fun.

Ornamental Millet Jade Princess 2

Tithonia ‘Fiesta Del Sol’ is a unique 2000 AAS Winner.  It stands 2-3 feet tall and is topped by 2-3 inch orange daisy-like blooms.  This tall plant is sturdy and its hairy foliage discourages hungry deer.

Tithonia ‘Fiesta Del Sol’


Vinca ‘Jams & Jellies Blackberry’ is a 2012 AAS Winner.  This bushy plant grew 12 inches tall in our garden and features flower petals that are a velvety deep purple with a white eye.

Vinca Jams & Jellies Blackberry

Enjoy filling your yards and gardens with beautiful, colorful annuals!

The mission of the Master Gardener program is to teach others in the community about horticulture.  In Dakota County, there are more than 130 active Master Gardeners who volunteer several thousand hours per year.

Visit the Master Gardeners of Dakota County website for additional gardening tips, information on upcoming events and classes.

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