Design

Best New Plants: Annuals

Fine Gardening – Issue 205

Each year we do a feature in our big spring issue introducing folks to a slew of new offerings from plant breeders. But this is not simply a list of plants that we think look interesting. Our standards here at Fine Gardening are higher. We interview breeders, marketers, and the heads of trial gardens across the country to dig deeper into why a particular new plant is worthy of praise. Below, you’ll find the best new annuals. Which new plants are right for you? Read on to find out.

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The coolest marigold you’ll ever see

Spinning Wheels marigold
Photo: courtesy of Renee’s Garden; Illustration: jemastock/dreamstime.com

‘Spinning Wheels’ marigold

Name: Tagetes erecta ‘Spinning Wheels’

Size: 1-1/2 to 2 feet tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Mexico, Central America

Who knew a marigold could be this cool? The large orange-and-yellow summer blooms have wayward petals around the outer edges that make them look like shooting fireworks. These plants aren’t tiny either, reaching nearly 2 feet tall by the time the first frost hits. Pollinators love them, but deer and rabbits tend to stay away—an added benefit if ever there was one.

Introduced by: Renee’s Garden Seeds

 

Intriguing color and texture for your shade containers

Dragon Fruit rex begonia
Photo: courtesy of Ball Horticulture Company

‘Dragon Fruit’ rex begonia

Name: Begonia rex ‘Dragon Fruit’

Size: 14 to 16 inches tall and wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

It is almost unbelievable that a real plant could be this silver, but ‘Dragon Fruit’ rex begonia is very real and very cool. The bull’s-eye of deep eggplant at the center of each leaf allows it to combine easily with purple-flowered annuals in a shady container. Bring it inside as a low-care houseplant in winter if you have a suitable windowsill with partial sun.

Introduced by: Ball Horticultural Company

 

No filter needed—this flower really is true blue

Vertigo Deep Blue torenia
Photo: courtesy of All-America Selections

‘Vertigo Deep Blue’ torenia

Name: Torenia ‘Vertigo Deep Blue’

Size: 10 to 12 inches tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist, rich, well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

Blue is arguably the most elusive color in gardening, so when you stumble upon a plant that is actually a true blue, you sit up and take notice. This cultivar has been around a couple of years but only now is widely available on nursery shelves. It was also just named an All- America Selections winner, having shown vigor in trial gardens across the country.

Introduced by: AmeriSeed International

 

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