Foliage: Award-winning annuals

Updated Jun 5, 2012

Variety and change are the backbone principles behind using annual plants in the landscape. They are typically less expensive than perennials or shrubs, so you can afford to concentrate groupings, giving your clients a lot of bang for their buck. Overall, they give you colorful and fragrant options.

Each year, some annual plants distinguish themselves as especially beautiful and easy to grow, earning them the distinction as All-America Selections bedding plant award winners. In 2008, the two plants listed below received this designation, so give them a try. If you don’t agree, you can always try something different next year. That’s the beauty of annuals.

Osteospermum F1 ‘Asti White’
AAS bedding plant award winner

With its large, 2.5-inch blooms and pure white petals that emphasize purple-blue centers, the ‘Asti White’ grabs attention for its unusual color and outstanding performance. Perhaps the most unusual feature of this flower is that it is the first osteospermum to be
propagated from seed. Another big plus is the blooms of ‘Asti White’ will stay open even on cloudy days, distinguishing it from typical osteospermum flowers that will close at night and when skies are gray.

Also known as Cape Daisies, African Daisies and Blue-eyed Daisies, osteospermums are members of the sunflower family and are native to Africa. Their tropical heritage makes them drought tolerant and ensures they thrive in full sun. While ‘Asti White’ prefers the heat, it also can recover from a late-spring or early-fall frost, so you can plant it several weeks earlier than other annuals and enjoy it well into fall.

‘Asti White’ flowers about 17 weeks after sowing the seeds. For more immediate results, purchase them as plants from your local nursery. With proper care (regular dead-heading and fertilizing), plants will reach heights and widths of 20 inches. ‘Asti White’ is also a good choice for container gardens.

Viola F1 ‘Skippy XL Plum-Gold’
AAS cool-season bedding plant award winner

Two qualities make these violas truly unique. First is their flower power. While their blooms may be small – about 1.5 inches – the number of blooms produced by the Viola F1 ‘Skippy XL Plum-Gold’ is extraordinary. The AAS cited the viola’s ability to grow a lavish number of blooms as the No. 1 reason for designating it as an award-winner. “The number of blooms produced more than makes up for the size,” reported the AAS.

The second quality that makes the ‘Skippy XL Plum-Gold’ a showcase flower is its design, which incorporates rich tones while maintaining a soft, pastel look. Plum petals surround a gold face with distinct whisker markings (those little black lines that radiate from the center of the flower).

These violas will bloom spring through summer in cooler regions. In the South, they are typically planted in fall to add their bright cheery colors to the winter garden.

Plants at a Glance

Genus species: Osteospermum ecklonis
Common names: African Daisy,
Blue-eyed Daisy, Cape Daisy
Unique qualities: First white osteospermum propagated from seed. Freedom of bloom and uniform size plants
Flower size: 2 to 2.5 inches
Color(s): White with blue center
Plant height: 17-20 inches
Plant width: 17-20 inches
Garden spacing: 12 inches apart
Length of time from sowing seed to flower: 17 weeks from seed
Closest comparison(s) on market: ‘Sky and Ice,’ ‘Passion Mix’
Bred by: Goldsmith Seeds, Inc.

Genus species: Viola cornuta
Common name: Viola
Unique qualities: color combinations,
vigorous and floriferous and flower size
Flower size: 1.5 inches
Color(s): Plum shades with golden center
Plant height: 6 inches
Plant width: 8 inches
Garden spacing: 8 inches apart
Length of time from sowing seed to flower: 10 weeks from seed
Closest comparison(s) on market: ‘Skippy Lavender/Yellow Face,’ ‘Panola Lavender’
Bred by: Kieft Seeds Holland

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