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Northern Plains Regional Reports

Top Plant-Trial Picks for the Northern Plains

These selections performed best for appearance, survivability, and easy maintenance all season long

‘Wildberry’ heuchera has a dense, rounded habit and bright, jewel-toned leaves. Photo: courtesy of Proven Winners

Before we know it, autumn’s first frost will be making its way through the Northern Plains and another growing season will come to a close. But it is never too early to start dreaming of next year. Here are some of the best-performing plants from recent trials at McCrory Gardens in Brookings, South Dakota, to consider for future plantings.

This lantana boasts attractive green foliage, plenty of bright blooms, drought tolerance, and heat tolerance. Photo: Chris Schlenker
This lantana boasts attractive green foliage, plenty of bright blooms, drought tolerance, and heat tolerance. Photo: Chris Schlenker

Top-Performing Annual: Royale Red Zone™ Lantana

Coming to garden centers in 2021 is Luscious® Royale Red Zone™ lantana (Lantana camara cv., Zones 9–11). If you tend to forget about your potted plants during the summer or just get tired of all the watering and deadheading, fill your containers with this lantana. Talk about a heat-loving, drought-tolerant, continuously blooming plant! Our trial had them planted in the ground and in a container, where they really shined. The plants had healthy foliage throughout the season while holding a consistent shape, and the nonstop flowering featured sunset colors of yellow, orange, and red blooms that instantly drew attention.

Beautiful deep purple leaves of ‘Wildberry’ heuchera hold their color all season long. Photo: Chris Schlenker

Top-Performing Perennial: ‘Wildberry’ Heuchera

‘Wildberry’ heuchera (Heuchera ‘Wildberry’, Zones 4–9) from Walters Gardens Inc. was planted out in 2019 and is on its second year of trials here at McCrory Gardens. We could not be more impressed. The purple-colored foliage that adorns 10-inch-tall and 20-inch-wide plants holds its color throughout the season without fading and features a glossy sheen that is accented by dark gray veins. As a bonus, the dark flower stems have pink calyxes sporting white flowers, which make this plant really stand out and ask to be planted up front and center.

Top-Performing Rose: Easy Elegance® My Girl Rose

Easy Elegance® My Girl rose is disease resistant with charming, old-fashioned looking blooms. Photo: Chris Schlenker
Easy Elegance® My Girl rose is disease resistant and has charming, old-fashioned-looking blooms. Photo: Chris Schlenker

One of our internal trials here at McCrory Gardens is comparing Easy Elegance® series rose growth and survivability in the two most common landscape mulches used in our area: hardwood chips and 2-inch river rock. Over the past four years, our climate has thrown just about every variable at these roses, and the one that stands out above the rest is Easy Elegance® My Girl rose (Rosa ‘BAIgirl’, Zones 4–9). Whether planted with organic wood chip mulch or 2-inch river rock, this 3-to-5-foot-tall-and-wide rose puts on a show of 2-inch-long, ruffled, deep pink blossoms all summer. Its shiny medium green foliage is highly resistant to black spot and not prone to dropping. It is also on its own root, meaning even when a brutal winter or rascally rabbit decimates the plant, you are nearly guaranteed the return of the same rose you planted next year. If you haven’t had much luck with roses in the past, give this one a try.

While there are many more plants trialed this year that are worthy of note, these few received some of the highest scores based on their performance and survivability here in the Northern Plains, making them great plants to add to your landscape and containers next year.

—Chris Schlenker is the head gardener of McCrory Gardens at South Dakota State University in Brookings, South Dakota.

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