University of Vermont
Department of Plant and Soil Science
Winter/Spring News ArticleAAS FLOWER WINNERS FOR 2017
Dr. Leonard Perry, Horticulture Professor Emeritus
University of Vermont
Each year the best of the new annual flowers (those that only live for
one year) are judged, and the winners given the All-America Selections
(AAS) designation. In the past these have all been grown from seeds,
but starting in 2015 those grown “vegetative” from cuttings were
included as well. This year’s annual flower winners, grown from seeds,
include a celosia, dianthus, two vincas, and a zinnia. The two
vegetative annual flower winners include a geranium and verbena. All
prefer full sun, average well-drained soil, and regular fertilizer.
To be an AAS winner, flowers must show improvements over any similar
existing cultivars (cultivated varieties). If grown from seeds, as most
are, they must bloom that same year as when sown. So a few perennials
that bloom the first year from sowing have won as well, such as the
penstemon winner for this year.
In the past, the winners only were those that were deemed worthy across
much of North America. While there are still these “national” winners,
there are now regional winners as well—those performing particularly
well in a particular region.
Celosia Asian Garden is a spiked type of cockscomb, two feet or more
high, having bunches of narrow rose-pink flower spikes. It grows well
in containers or garden beds, and is attractive to pollinators. Other
benefits to this flower are its tolerance to drought, and use as a cut
or dried flower.
Dianthus Supra Pink joins its sister winner from 2006, Supra Purple.
The unusual flowers, mottled in various shades of pink, have quite
frilled petal tips. Flowers cover the bushy plant through the season on
plants under one foot high. Although grown as an annual, it may
overwinter in warmer regions.
Geranium Calliope Medium Dark Red forms a mounded, semi-spreading habit
with velvety deep red flowers. It would be a good choice for landscape
beds, containers, and hanging baskets. This is one of the two winners
this year you’ll need to buy as a small plant, not as seeds.
Penstemon Twizzle Purple is a perennial in zones 5 (-10 to -20F winter
average minimum) and warmer, but will bloom in mid to late summer the
first year when grown from seeds. Sow in cell-packs or small pots six
to eight weeks before the last frost and planting them outside. This
native plant has one-inch tubular purple flowers on slender stalks,
almost three feet high, which are attractive to pollinators. Although a
winner this year in the Great Lakes and Southeast regions, it will grow
Verbena Endurascape Pink Bicolor is another flower winner you’ll need to
buy as small plants, not seeds. Flowers are lighter pink at the tips,
getting darker towards the centers. The habit is spreading, and 8 to 12
inches high. It tolerates not only drought and heat, but temperatures
in fall into the low teens. Use it in masses, along walks, or in
There are two vinca or annual periwinkle AAS winners this year—Mega
Bloom Orchid Halo and Mega Bloom Pink. While the former has rich purple
flowers with white “eyes” or centers, the latter has soft pink flowers
with white centers. Plants keep a compact, dense habit one foot or so
high, and begin flowering earlier than many vincas.
Zinnia Profusion Red is the fourth color to win the AAS award in this
series. Profusion zinnias are notable for their compact form only one
foot or so high, disease resistance, early and continuous bloom, and
easy culture. The single flowers, up to two or more inches wide, are
attractive to some pollinators.
Each year, the last five years of winners are displayed in about 200
official All-America Selections gardens across North America, including
our own Waterfront Park in Burlington. If traveling this summer, make
sure to look up which gardens may be near your route
(all-americaselections.org/visit-an-aas-display-garden/). On the AAS
website you’ll also find the vegetable winners and their details.
Check out our ratings and listings online, along with some photos, of
which flowers have performed best in Vermont
(pss.uvm.edu/ppp/aaswp.html). Of the 100 or so new flowers in the
Burlington display garden each year, many are not All-America winners,
and most are those grown from cuttings.
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