2018-01-31 / Home and Garden

2018 AAS Flower Winners include Zinnia Queeny, Super Hero

By DR. LEONARD PERRY Horticulture Professor Emeritus, University of Vermont

Each year the best of the new annual flowers are judged, and the winners given the All-America Selections (AAS) designation. In the past these have all been grown from seeds, but starting in 2015 those grown “vegetative” from cuttings were included as well. This year’s annual flower winners, grown from seeds, include a zinnia, ornamental pepper, marigold, gypsophila (annual baby’s breath), and a canna. A cuphea (Mexican heather) is a vegetative winner.

Canna South Pacific Orange is a sister to the 2013 winner South Pacific Scarlet. Compared to similar cannas, this one is more vigorous, uniform, and with better basal branching. Unlike most cannas, this one is grown from seeds rather than tubers. Sow seeds indoors in mid to late February. After a season, you can save the tuber that has developed and overwinter it as you would other cannas. The bright orange flowers are on top of plants two to three feet high. Site plants in sunny areas as they prefer heat to bloom best.

Cuphea FloriGlory Diana makes a compact mound, 10 to 12 inches high and wide. Its many intensely colored magenta flowers contrast nicely with the small, dark green leaves. Use it in masses in borders, or in containers. This one is started from cuttings, so you’ll need to buy small plants to grow on.

Gypsophila Gypsy White Improved has larger white flowers than similar baby’s breath selections, and they’re semi-double. The “Improved” is important, in that this selection has better branching and growth habit than the original Gypsy White. It makes a compact mound about 10 inches high and wide, so is good planted in masses or in containers. This annual form is not invasive as some perennial baby’s breath plants may be in some areas.

Marigold Super Hero Spry is a low, French marigold only getting 10 to 12 inches high. The dark maroon lower petals contrast nicely with the golden yellow centers. It is early to bloom, blooms all season, and doesn’t need old flowers cut off (“deadheading”).

Ornamental pepper Onyx Red makes a similar compact habit eight to 10 inches high as a previous winner ‘Black Olive’, but has shiny red fruit instead of black ones. These contrast nicely with the dark, almost black foliage. Being compact, it makes a great container plant.

Zinnia Queeny Lime Orange has large, dahlia-like blooms two to four inches across, on compact and sturdy plants 18 to 24 inches high. It has a wonderful and unique color, evolving from a combination of coral, peach and orange to a light peach with dark center with age. It makes a great cut flower, the blooms lasting up to three weeks, even without preservative.

Since these new varieties generally won’t be found in most garden stores, you may need to order seeds (or plants in the case of cuphea) to start and grow on yourself. Just follow directions in the catalogs and on the seed packets for when to start. Aim to start seeds in late winter for canna, early spring for gypsophila and pepper, and late spring for marigold and zinnia. Use a peat-based or organic compost-based germination mix in small containers, transplanting to larger ones as seedlings grow. A heat mat and light stand often help them to grow stockier.

When planting outside, they should have a well-drained soil (adding compost helps), and site with full sun. They may grow in part sun, just not bloom as well. Fertilize after planting with a starter fertilizer, then as they grow with product of your choice according to label rates.


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