2014 Costa Farms Summer Trial Garden Top Performers

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Costa Farms Research and Development 2014 Summer Showdown Garden Top Performers


About Our Trials Research

and development is serious business at Costa Farms: We have 2 acres of greenhouses in Miami devoted to the department, as well as a 2-acre Trial Garden (plus dedicated space at our locations in North and South Carolina). Every year the Costa Farms research and development team evaluates hundreds of plants from plant breeders around the world. We use this data as a factor in determining the variety mix we offer our customers and consumers. Our Summer Showdown Trial Garden is the ultimate test of summer performance for new plants: Miami’s tropical climate means high daytime temperatures, high night temperatures, as well as relative humidity levels consistently over 70 percent. Add in torrential tropical rains, and the difference between a plant surviving and thriving becomes readily apparent. We grow plants for the Trial Garden in 6-inch pots. They were transplanted into the Trial Garden Week 26, giving plants little chance to get established before the summer heat set in. The plants were given two applications of fertilizer: once at week 27 and 37. To replicate the care typically given by the average consumer, plants were not given any special care—once planted, they were not pinched, pruned, or deadheaded.

Evaluation The Costa Farms Research and Development team evaluated the varieties using the following criteria: • Floriferousness • Uniformity • Clean foliage • Pest/disease resistance • Overall appearance

Over the next pages, you’ll learn about the 77 top-performing varieties. We’ve divided them into six categories based on a common consumer interest: Style. Country: The country look has an informal, comfortable feel. While tidy, plants often spill over pathways and onto each other.


About Our Trials Exotic: Consumers who like a dramatic, eye-catching appearance in their landscape often gravitate toward the exotic look. Mediterranean: Especially trendy these days, Mediterranean style is a little more spare and often features warm, rich colors and fun textures. Modern: Clean and crisp, modern style is is particularly attractive to younger consumers. Those opting for this style often use fewer plants, but put higher significance on them. Rustic: Like country, rustic style is informal, but commonly features a stronger tie to nature and natural elements. Many native species and varities fit well in rustic style. Traditional: Many consumers who don’t actively identify a particular style for their container gardens or landscapes fall into traditional style. Traditional brings in influences from a wide range of sources.

Above: Row beds house varieties from a wide range of genera and species. Below: We evaluated more than 400 different varieties in the Ultimate Plant Showdown summer garden.


Country 1. Angelonia Angelmist Spreading Blue

1. Angelonia Angelmist Spreading Blue

2. Coreopsis Creme Caramel

3. Euphorbia Starblast White

4. Gaura Sparkle White

Sun; from Ball FloraPlant Angelonia is practically a no-fail choice for gardeners looking for easy summer color. Angelmist Spreading Blue and Spreading White consistently bloomed and maintained excellent habits. They’re perfect picks for first-time gardeners.

2. Coreopsis Creme Caramel

Sun; from Aris This coreopsis produced a plethora of flowers and held up to every challenging weather condition the Miami summer offered. The softly colored flowers are a great neutral, allowing gardeners to make this coreopsis look good with just about any other plants.

3. Euphorbia Starblast White

Sun; from Westflowers Gardeners appreciate euphorbia’s fluffy, frothy look—especially in containers. Starblast White (Soft Pink, too) is a veritable blooming machine, creating a densely flowering mound that’s perfect for garden beds, borders, and containers.

4. Gaura Sparkle White

Sun; from PanAmerican Seed Gaura Sparkle White—like Euphorbia—is perfect for adding texture to beds, borders, and containers. It also garners extra consumer appeal for being a variety of a North-American native plant (a trendy buzzword).


Country 5. Lantana Bandana Orange

6. Pentas Exp. Vig. Hot Pink

5. Lantana Bandana Orange

Sun; from Syngenta Lantana is another genera that even first-time gardeners can count on for reliable performance through the summer. Bandana Orange (and Peach) offered a tidy habit (unlike old-fashioned varieties) and attractively colored flowers.

6. Pentas Exp. Vigorous Hot Pink

Sun; from Red Fox Pentas is a plant many new gardeners aren’t familiar with, but should be. It offers many benefits: It’s heat tolerant, attracts butterflies and hummingbirds, and lasts long in bouquets. This vigorous variety produced lots of blooms.

7. Portulaca Pazazz Deep Pink 7. Portulaca Pazazz Deep Pink

8. Scaevola Surdiva Light Blue

Sun; from Danziger Pazazz Deep Pink (and Salmon Glow) creates a carpet of color in landscapes and is a delightful spiller in mixed containers. Key attributes for gardeners are its exceptional drought tolerance, nonstop blooming cycle, and rich color.

8. Scaevola Surdiva Light Blue

Sun; from Suntory Surdiva Light Blue (plus Blue) creates a soft, lovely look in landscapes, covering the ground in unique, orchid-like flowers in a popular shade of violet. Scaevola is one of those perfect plants to accent a white-picket fence or drape gracefully on a front porch.


Exotic 1. Caladium Sangria

Shade; from Classic Caladiums Caladiums offer gardeners big color without pause thanks to their flamboyant foliage. Both Sangria and Scarlet Flame feature thick, rugged foliage and mounding habits that make them perfect for garden beds, borders, and containers.

1. Caladium Sangria

2. Canna CannaSol Happy Wilma

3. Pepper Basket of Fire

4. Celosia Dragon’s Breath

2. Canna CannaSol Happy Wilma

Sun; from Red Fox From the moment they were planted, the CannaSol series captured attention thanks to their attractive flowers and clean foliage. Happy Wilma (and Happy Cleo) performed best, and are sure to put on a good show in home gardens.

3. Pepper Basket of Fire

Sun; from Floravova Trendy with gardeners because of its bright colors and the fact that they can eat it, Basket of Fire is also a top performer, showing off an impressive tidy habit and excellent resistance to heat, insects, and diseases. Basket of Fire should prove an excellent choice for containers and landscapes.

4. Celosia Dragon’s Breath

Sun; from Sakata Dragon’s Breath added a bold, tropical touch to our trials with its dramatic display of red-pink foliage and big, bulky size. Eye-catching in the back-of-the-border, this plant also works in large containers. Note: We didn’t see it bloom.


Exotic 5. Colocasia Royal Hawaiian Black Coral

6. Curcuma Siam Sunset

5. Colocasia Royal Hawaiian Black Coral

Sun; from PlantHaven Gardeners looking for big and bold don’t need to look farther than colocasia varieties. Black Coral is a showstopper with black-purple foliage and a compact habit. It looks fantastic on its own, but pairs perfectly with just about everything. Morning Dew was also a top pick.

6. Curcuma Siam Sunset

Shade; from ForemostCo Siam Sunset, Siam Sparkling, and Siam Shadow were three stunners in our trials. They offer tropicallooking, ginger-like blooms nonstop throughout the summer, even in the hottest weather. The series is perfect for landscapes and containers. 7. Mandevilla Sun Parasol Red Emperor

8. Scaevola Bombay White

7. Mandevilla Sun Parasol Red Emperor

Sun; from Suntory We weren’t surprised the Sun Parasol line—Giant White, Creamy Pink, Pink, Crimson, White, Red Emperor, and Burgundy—performed well in the trials. These heat-resistant plants put out a seemingly endless supply of gorgeous trumpet-shaped flowers.

8. Scaevola Bombay White

Sun; from Syngenta Bombay White (Bombay Blue, as well) stood out in the trials because of its wonderful heat and drought resistance. The low, spreading habit was perfect for creating a carpet of color in our row beds and will look just as good in home gardens.


Mediterranean 1. Angelonia Serenita Purple

Sun; from Ball FloraPlant Serenita Purple (and Serenita Pink) were standouts for their tidy habits and impressive displays of flowers. Gardeners can count on these varieties in their yards, decks, and patios for an impressive show of summer color.

1. Angelonia Serenita Purple

2. Caryopteris Blue Fountain

3. Crossandra Orange Marmalade

4. Cuphea Vermillionaire

2. Caryopteris Blue Fountain

Sun; from EuroAmerican Propagators A rarity in the garden, caryopteris Blue Fountain (Good as Gold, too!) is an easy-growing flowering shrubs for late-summer/fall blooms in a lovely shade of lavender blue. It’s a heat-, deer- and drought-resistant plant irresistible to butterflies.

3. Crossandra Orange Marmalade

Sun; from Dummen Though it’s a tropical plant, crossandra’s warm orange flowers are reminiscent of the Mediterranean sun. It’s easy to grow in landscapes or containers, and is the perfect partner for angelonia or pentas. The glossy green foliage is attractive, too.

4. Cuphea Vermillionaire

Sun; from Proven Winners A traditional favorite for heat and drought tolerance, gardeners also know cuphea for being an excellent plant for hummingbirds and butterflies. The plant is standout on its own thanks to its brick-orange flowers, but cuphea also partners well with other plants.


Mediterranean 5. Gaillardia Celebration Red

6. Lantana Santana Red Orange

5. Gaillardia Celebration Red

Sun; from PlantHaven Gaillardia Celebration Red provided a steady supply of rusty-red flowers throughout our evaluation period. We were also impressed by its tidy habit. This easy-to-grow perennial is a good pick for new gardeners, (or busy consumers who want flowers).

6. Lantana Santana Red Orange

Sun; from Danziger Two selections in the Santana series stood out: Red Orange and Bandana Punch. Both displayed excellent habits and flowering characteristics, making them ideal for gardeners of every level. Consider they attract butterflies and you have a slam dunk.

7. Pentas Graffiti Violet 7. Pentas Graffiti Violet

8. Portulaca Cupcake Peachy

Sun; from Benary An ideal plant partner for traditional Mediterranean favorites such as rosemary or oleander, Pentas Graffiti Violet (and Red Lace) is a butterfly magnet that thrives in garden beds, borders, and containers. Gardeners love the look of a pentas in full bloom!

8. Portulaca Cupcake Peachy

Sun; from Red Fox Portulaca—AKA purslane—works well as an annual groundcover, a component plant in mixed containers, or a specimen plant in hanging baskets and window boxes. Cupcake Peachy is a treat in the garden with lots of warm pink flowers.


Modern 1. Angelonia Archangel White

1. Angelonia Archangel White

2. Cuphea Cuphoric Pink

3. Juncus Hedgehog

4. Lantana Skittles

Sun; from Ball FloraPlant Showing off spires of pure white flowers, Archangel White is a winner in the garden. With its midsize habit and excellent flower production, Archangel White, Raspberry, and Dark Purple stood out in our trial garden this summer.

2. Cuphea Cuphoric Pink

Sun; from Syngenta Bearing a tidy habit covered in frothy pink flowers, Cuphoric Pink is a fun mixer for adding texture to mixed plantings. When grown alone, it can be treated as a unique edging plant in the landscape. It’s also heat and drought resistant.

3. Juncus Hedgehog

Sun; from Takii Featuring stiffly upright blades, Hedgehog rush is outstanding planted in crisp, clean lines. It’s also lovely when used traditionally to impart texture to mixed plantings of summer favorites like angelonia, lantana, and pentas.

4. Lantana Skittles

Sun; from EuroAmerican Propagators A twist on traditional lantana, Skittles shows off light green leaves edged in white. The foliage makes the flowers pop, and the plant’s tidy mounded habit makes it the perfect specimen plant to show off in the landscape or containers.


Modern 5. Mandevilla Rio Pink

6. Mercadonia Magic Carpet

5. Mandevilla Rio Pink

Sun; from Syngenta Heat and humidity don’t get mandevilla down! Rio Pink stands up to summer weather, consistently producing a display of soft pink flowers over its glossy green foliage. Like cuphea, it’s a fun edging plant that also works in containers.

6. Mercadonia Magic Carpet

Sun; from Sakata One of the most ground-hugging groundcovers around, mercadonia Magic Carpet practically smothers itself in bright yellow flowers. It grows well in the landscape, but also looks surprisingly dapper draping over the sides of containers and baskets.

7. Pennisetum Black Stockings 7. Pennisetum Black Stockings

8. Scaevola Fan Dancer

Sun; from EuroAmerican Propagators Bold, upright, and dramatic, Black Stockings is a smartly architectural ornamental grass. It shows off dark purple-green blades that sway in the breeze, adding sound and kinetic energy to the landscape. Or grow it large containers.

8. Scaevola Fan Dancer

Sun; from Oro Farms Fan Dancer is vigorous and produces endless pure white blooms all summer, even in the hottest, driest, or most humid weather. Like other scaevola selections, it’s a great choice for both containers and landscape beds and borders.


Rustic 1. Celosia Arrabona Red

Sun; from PanAmerican Seed Gardeners who grow Arrabona Red will appreciate its rich color, easyto-grow nature, and attractiveness to butterflies. Its upright habit makes it an excellent companion to mounding summer favorites like lantana.

1. Celosia Arrabona Red

2. Gaillardia Sunset Flash

3. Gaura Perky Pink

4. Impatiens Big Bounce White

2. Gaillardia Sunset Flash

Sun; from PlantHaven Sunset Flash (and Sunset Cutie) have flamboyantly colored flowers and are tough North-American natives that bring butterflies from all over the neighborhood. The plants’ tidy habits makes them perfect for beds, borders, and containers.

3. Gaura Perky Pink

Sun; from Proven Winners Another tough-as-nails NorthAmerican native, Perky Pink gaura shows off airy pink flowers over red-tinted foliage. It thrives in hot, dry weather—making it an excellent choice for gardeners that forget to water.

4. Impatiens Big Bounce White

Shade; from Ball FloraPlant One answer to impatiens downy mildew, Big Bounce White (and Red) is floriferous, covering itself in big white flowers the way traditional impatiens do. Though it doesn’t tolerate drought, it’s big burst of color makes it worth the extra water.


Rustic 5. Ipomoea Desana Bronze

6. Lantana Bandana Trailing Gold

5. Ipomoea Desana Bronze

Sun; from Suntory Desana Bronze sweet potato vine looks right at home in a number of landscape styles. The purplebronze foliage accents just about every other plant, plus holds up to a wide range of challenging weather conditions, including summer heat.

6. Lantana Bandana Trailing Gold

Sun; from Syngenta With its spreading habit, Bandana Trailing Gold makes for a lovely annual groundcover or showpiece in hanging baskets or window boxes. The brightly colored blooms appeared in abundance in our trials, even in the worst weather.

7. Salvia Sallyfun Deep Ocean 7. Salvia Sallyfun Deep Ocean

8. Vinca Exp. Dark Red

Sun; from Danziger Gardeners can’t go wrong with this fantastic plant. About as tough as it comes, Sallyfun Deep Ocean produces spires of lovely lavenderviolet flowers that attract honeybees, butterflies, and hummingbirds. Plus, it holds up to drought!

8. Vinca Exp. Dark Red

Sun; from Floranova We grew a lot of vinca in the Trial Garden this summer, and Exp. Dark Red stood out because of its compact habit, flower production, and rich colors. Ideal for red-whiteand-blue combinations, this variety is also a standout on its own.


Traditional 1. Angelonia Archangel Raspberry

1. Angelonia Archangel Raspberry

2. Begonia Bravehart Rose Bicolor

3. Euphorbia Diamond Delight

4. Impatiens Big Bounce Red

Sun; from Ball FloraPlant Most gardeners familiar with angelonia know it for purple, violet, or white flowers; Archangel Raspberry provides delightful raspberry-pink blooms. It’s as tough as any other angelonia, though, holding up to heat and drought.

2. Begonia Braveheart Rose Bicolor

Shade; from Syngenta Performing solidly stronger than most other begonias in the trial, Braveheart Rose Bicolor offered a stunning mounding habit and fantastic flower power. The delightful blooms offer lovely color and contrast the glossy green foliage.

3. Euphorbia Diamond Delight

Sun; from Proven Winners Diamond Delight is like the wellbehaved kid in class; it plays well with just about any other varieties you plant it with. Whether in containers or beds and borders, the mounding habit and floriferous nature makes it a garden showstopper.

4. Impatiens Big Bounce Red

Shade; from Ball FloraPlant Big Bounce Red is big and beefy, with lots of bold red color for the shade. Perfect for the back of the shaded border, this disease-resistant variety seems to produce an infinite number of blooms and is an ideal match for annuals, perennials, and even shrubs.


Traditional 5. Lantana Evita Red

6. Lantana Pink Bird

5. Lantana Evita Red

Sun; from Oro Water restrictions are no problem for this hearty plant! Evita Red (Pink, too) performs in heat and drought, producing cheerful clusters of red and yellow flowers that attract butterflies and hummingbirds. It’s ideal for containers and landscapes.

6. Lantana Pink Bird

Sun; from Oro A colorful compact variety, Pink Bird bears soft pink blooms that complement more brightly colored varieties, or blend easily with pastels for a gentler look. Like other lantana varieties, it has excellent heat and drought tolerance.

7. Pentas Starcluster Lavender 6. Pentas Starcluster Lavender

7. Scaevola Scolora Amethyst

Sun; from Syngenta A lovely cut flower with big bloom clusters that last a long time, Starcluster Lavender excels in the garden, too. It’s one of the best plants for summer, looking its best during hot, humid weather when other plants (and gardeners) tend to wilt.

8. Scaevola Scolora Amethyst

Sun; from Westflowers Scolora Amethyst, Brilliant, and Topaz Pink created a carpet of color in our Trial Garden, performing like champs. They display excellent habits and a dazzling display of unique, orchid-like blooms. The varieties are ideal for containers, as well as sunny beds and borders.