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GardenSMART :: New Annuals for 2017 Trial Review

New Annuals for 2017 Trial Review

By Susan Martin for Proven Winners

Every year, I challenge myself as a gardener to grow something I’ve never grown before and this year was no exception. As a professional garden writer, I was privileged to be given several exciting new varieties to trial. Additionally, in my travels this year, I had the chance to evaluate many more new plants in trial gardens across the country. The following new annuals, which will be new at retail in Spring 2017, received top ratings in my book.

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Pictured left to right: Angelface® Super Pink, Angelface® Super White, Angelface® Super Blue. Photos, Proven Winners.

Angelface® Super Series Angelonia

Since Angelonia really needs heat to rev up its bloom power, this is a plant you may tend to overlook at the garden center in spring. In some climates, it may not be available until late spring, which is a notable reason why you should visit your local retailers more than once each spring.

What makes the new Angelface® Super series different is its size—it stands nearly double the height of typical Angelonias at 30-40” tall and has larger flowers too. It’s ideal for taking up lots of room in the sunny landscape and since it is deer resistant, you can plant it with wild abandon. Plant it in groups and you’ll have a phenomenal swathe of color from late spring through fall. In the Massachusetts Horticultural Society’s trial garden at Elm Bank, it was still going strong in late September.

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Pictured left to right: Superbells® Tropical Sunrise, Superbells® Hollywood Star™. Photos, Proven Winners.

Superbells® Hollywood Star™ and Superbells® Tropical Sunrise Calibrachoa 

I was convinced that Superbells® Hollywood Star™ would be a long shot from the start in my garden since the sample plant arrived small and flowerless. But I dutifully potted it up anyway into some good quality potting soil, set it in my sunniest spot, and let it go. A few weeks later while walking through my garden, a hummingbird greeted me up close, staring me straight in the eye for a second or two. When I blinked, it broke form and buzzed right on over to Hollywood Star™, which was now full of gorgeous magenta blooms. Its vigor was outstanding all summer.

Superbells® Tropical Sunrise was equally, if not more, floriferous. It was absolutely encrusted in striped melon-toned blooms all summer. They spilled out of the container where I had paired it with Soprano® Purple Osteospermum, Illusion® Midnight Lace sweet potato vines and orange-flowered nasturtiums. A combination worth repeating next year for sure.  

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Pictured is Toucan™ Yellow and Toucan™ Rose with bee. Left photo, Proven Winners, right photo, Susan Martin.

Toucan™ Cannas 

From Boston to Dallas and everywhere in between, Toucan canna lilies grew like gangbusters in the summer heat. I was impressed to see them still in full bloom and looking great in October in the Dallas Arboretum’s trials. They absorb the heat in stride and in turn, churn out large stalks of vibrant, showy flowers that are easy to spot from across the garden.

I discovered three great reasons to plant Toucan™ cannas:

  • They are virus-free. You may not realize that canna lilies have had absolutely horrible problems with plant viruses over the past decade. At one point, it was feared that they would be completely wiped out. But Toucan™ cannas are produced from seed, and viruses can’t be transmitted by seed, so they have a squeaky clean bill of health. No worries with Toucan!
  • Bees adore them. Bees tend to go for flowers with easy targets: a center cone, prominent stamens or the like. That’s why I was surprised to find bees on nearly every patch of Toucan cannas I observed this summer. Somehow, they make their way into these intricately-shaped blooms and find just what they need there.
  • They are relatively short. Why does that matter? Because people love to plant cannas as thrillers in their combination containers, but typical cannas are 5-6’ tall and make the pot too top heavy so it’s prone to tipping over in the wind. Toucan™ cannas stand just 30-48” tall (at the upper end of this range when planted in-ground). They are ideal for planting in 14” or larger containers.

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Pictured is the Dream Big combination featuring Prince Tut™ Cyperus, Superbells® Tropical Sunrise Calibrachoa and Primo™ ‘Black Pearl’ Heuchera. Photo, Proven Winners.

Graceful Grasses® Prince Tut™ Cyperus

You may find this water-loving grass-like plant in the water garden section or on the annuals bench at your local retailer. That’s a tribute to its versatility--it will happily grow in shallow water or in garden or potting soil that is irrigated regularly.

You may be familiar with the popular King Tut® Cyperus which stands up to 6’ tall. If King Tut® were the papa bear, the new Prince Tut™ would be the mama bear, reaching up to 4’ tall but with more neatly coiffed, frothy plumes and a shapelier figure. Still too tall? Try Baby Tut®, the baby bear of the bunch, which grows just 2’ tall.

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Pictured left to right: Bewitched After Midnight™, Bewitched Green with Envy™ and Sweetheart Jet Black™. Photos, Proven Winners.

Sweet Caroline IpomoeaBewitched After Midnight™, Bewitched Green with Envy™ and Sweetheart Jet Black™

Let’s talk about these three new sweet potato vines as a group since in every trial garden I evaluated, they were planted side by side. In each case, all three grew completely uniformly without any one taking over the other. Why is that important? Because these new, well-behaved varieties won’t take over your containers either. Older varieties of sweet potato vines were absolute monsters, clamoring over every other plant nearby to stake their claim and smothering everything in their path. These new gals have much better manners.

Also impressive was their completely colorfast foliage colors. Even in the Texas heat, they did not bleach out. The purples were as dark as night and the light green showed no signs of burn. I may not have believed it had I not seen it with my own eyes!

Find more new Proven Winners annuals for Spring 2017 at  

Contributor Bio: Susan Martin is an avid gardener, writer and speaker for gardening audiences across the U.S. She finds her calling in spreading the joy of gardening to her fellow gardeners, a love which was instilled in her by her parents. Susan is a native of Michigan where she has been digging in the dirt since age four.

Patent Info: Angelface® Super Angelonia USPPAF CanPBRAF. Superbells® Hollywood Star™ Calibrachoa 'BBCAL26702' USPPAF CanPBRAF US Utility 9,313,959. Superbells® Tropical Sunrise Calibrachoa 'INCALTRSUN' USPPAF CanPBRAF. Toucan™ Canna x generalis. Prince Tut™ Cyperus papyrus. Sweet Caroline Bewitched After Midnight™ Ipomoea batatas 'NCORNSP-020BWAM' USPPAF CanPBRAF. Sweet Caroline Bewitched Green with Envy™ Ipomoea batatas USPPAF CanPBRAF. Sweet Caroline Sweetheart Jet Black™ Ipomoea batatas 'NCORNSP-021SHJB' USPPAF CanPBRAF.


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