by Chris Manning and Patrick Williams
Lantana Lucky Sunrise Rose (Ball FloraPlant), Colorado State University
This dependable performer is a winner from multiple years in the past as well as 2018. The bright flowers have a mesmerizing mix of colors often found in a sunrise. Plants are very uniform, and flowering was very abundant all through the season. This variety was grown in only a ½-inch irrigation per week bed and has low water requirements.
Portulaca Cupcake Series (Dümmen Orange), Dallas Arboretum
We are always excited to see new varieties when it comes to Portulaca. This waterwise plant does well in our Texas weather and always puts on a show. The Cupcake Series adds a new element with sensational new colors to add to the landscape.
BEST DROUGHT-TOLERANT PERENNIAL
Delosperma ‘Alan’s Apricot’ (Plant Select), Colorado State University
This is a carpeting perennial well adapted to dry conditions. This particular variety has performed superior with a 3-inch height and spreading growth habit that can reach almost three feet in three years. The plant displays huge peach-colored blooms whenever the sun is out during the summer.
Ricinus Carmencita Bright Red (Benary), Dallas Arboretum
This Ricinus caught our eye with its interesting red color. This fast-growing plant is a great addition to a perennial landscape. During the entirety of summer and with little water, we never saw it falter. (This plant is toxic; if you choose to put this in your landscape, be aware that it can be harmful to pets and children.)
BEST HEAT-TOLERANT PERENNIAL
Pennisetum ‘Red Rocket’ (Intrinsic Perennial Gardens), Dallas Arboretum
The Pennisetum ‘Red Rocket’ was in this same selection last year. This grass has wonderful, fluffy blooms that add texture to the landscape and the burgundy ends to the grass add a contrasting element that makes this plant unique.
Gomphrena ‘Truffula Pink’ (Proven Winners), Dallas Arboretum
The Gomphrena ‘Truffula Pink’ looks great even in 100-degree heat and above. This Gomphrena can be compared to that of ‘Fireworks’ but is much more compact and not as wild-looking.
BEST POLLINATOR- FRIENDLY ANNUAL
Bidens ‘Bidy Boom Red’ (Dümmen Orange), Colorado State University
Large amounts of long-lasting flowers were packed on a smaller, compact plant with a very tidy growth habit. Blooms also had very intense color to create a lot of flower power for a small plant. Bees love this flower as well as butterflies late in the season.
Bidens ‘Bellamy White’ (Benary), Dallas Arboretum
The Bidens ‘Bellamy White’ has been a pollinating superstar. During the season, we have seen bees, flies, moths, butterflies and so much more! The plant is compact with dark green leaves and covered in small white flowers. Perfect for cottage plantings and containers.
BEST POLLINATOR-FRIENDLY PERENNIAL
Nepeta ‘Aroma Violet’ (Danziger), Colorado State University
This Nepeta is a pollinator garden dream. The plant starts blooming in early May and will continually bloom until a hard freeze, giving the longest season of bloom for pollinators. The growth habit forms a neat mound and gets about 2 feet across and 18 inches high. The lavender blooms complement silvery green foliage, but be aware it can reseed.
Salvia ‘Rockin’ Playin’ the Blues’ (Proven Winners), Dallas Arboretum
The Salvia ‘Rockin’ Playin’ the Blues’ is not only a pollinator-friendly perennial but a gorgeous burst of color to any landscape. This plant draws in butterflies, bees and even hummingbirds.
BEST OVERALL PERFORMANCE: PERENNIAL
Echinacea ‘Kismet Raspberry’ (Terra Nova Nurseries), Colorado State University
This Echinacea has been a top performer in all categories. The variety has a 100 percent survival rate for two winters in the mountain west, attracts many types of pollinators, and blooms for an incredibly long period of time. The plants are uniform and compact with an upright growth habit. The vibrancy and floriferousness are what make this variety the best overall.
Gauriella Bicolor (Westhoff), Dallas Arboretum
The Gauriella Bicolor is a must-have for any perennial garden. The flowers are soft white with hints of pink along the edges. With nonstop blooms all season and a wonderful growth habit, this plant is unstoppable.
BEST OVERALL PERFORMANCE: ANNUAL
Salvia Big Blue (PanAmerican Seed), Colorado State University
A later bloomer that is worth the wait, it was impressive with large flower spikes that are showy in the garden as well as making a good cut flower as well. Plants had dark green foliage, strong upright growth habit, excellent branching and very uniform overall. It was also a strong favorite with bees as well as humans.
Lantana Citrus Blend (Proven Winners), Dallas Arboretum
The Lantana ‘Citrus Blend’ has been blooming heavily, nonstop all summer. Not only can it take the Texas heat, but it can look good doing it. The habit has a bit of a wild look to it but is still manageable for landscapes. The blooms add a pop of color and attract many wonderful pollinators.