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Costa Farms Research & Development 2014 Season Premier Garden Early-Season Top Performers


Container gardening is more popular than ever. It’s no wonder why: Containers are versatile, mobile, and an inexpensive way to get started gardening. That’s why we decided to organize our 2014 EarlySpring Season Premier Top Performers update into three categories: The spillers, fillers, and thrillers we use as a teaching tool for consumers to create container gardens. Over the next few pages, you’ll see which varieties stood out to our research and development; sales; plus marketing teams—as well as why­—as we tended and evaluated the 2-acre Costa Farms Trial Garden in Miami, Florida.


We assessed plants in the Core Garden by:

Abundance of Bloom Crop Uniformity Overall Performance

(clean foliage, little or no pest damage, and the plant’s overall habit and appearance).

Technical Data

Standout Spillers

Seventy varieties scored as top performers in our evaluation period between Week 52 and Week 10. Pot Size: All varieties were grown in 6-inch pots until finished stage, then transplanted into the Core Garden. Fertilization: A slowrelease fertilizer (180day release) was applied at Week 52, and again at Week 9. Pesticides: No insecticides were applied, though fungicide was used on verbena cultivars for powdery mildew. Weather: The average temperature through the evaluation period was 68F; average humidity was 85 percent. See the graphs (below) for more specific weather data.

Consumer Excitement

Grower Note

The Costa Farms team takes note of top-performing varieties and employs it as a criterion in decisionmaking process of what to grow. However, Trial Garden performance is only one factor; many others come into play as we decide what to offer our customers.

Temperature (F) and Relative Humidity (%)


1.5 1 0.5 0

Calibrachoa Calipetite L. Blue

Lantana Trailing Yellow

Lobelia Hot Hot Waterblue Waterblue Lobelia

Petunia Easy Wave Berry Velor

Petunia Picotee Blue

Brachyscome Surdaisy Pink

Lantana Trailing Yellow

Calibrachoa Calipetite Light Blue

Lobelia Hot Waterblue

A fun candidate for a fine-textured component in mixed containers (or a specimen in hanging baskets or window boxes), Brachyscome Surdaisy Pink offers abundant consumer appeal with its charming, daisy-shaped flowers and easy-growing nature. Grow in sun; bred by Suntory.

Rainfall (inches) 2

Brachyscome Surdaisy Pink

120 100 80 60 40 20 0

Avg Temp (F)

Min Temp (F)

Max Temp (F)

Rel Hum (%)

More restrained than most calibrachoa, this selection is makes a topnotch choice for color bowls and other small plantings. Its soft lavender-blue color is particularly attractive to home gardeners. Grow in sun; bred by Sakata.

Lantana is recognized by most home gardeners for its rugged nature and attractiveness to butterflies. Trailing Yellow works in large containers or as a stand-alone plant in window boxes and hanging baskets. It’s also fantastic when grown in the landscape. Grow in sun; bred by Syngenta. Better heat tolerance is a big bonus for gardeners who love lobelia’s airy texture and rich colors. Its mounding habit makes Hot Waterblue a brilliant choice for baskets, window boxes, and the landscape. Hot Igloo also scored well. Grow in sun; bred by Westflowers.

Petunia Easy Wave Berry Velor

Gardeners adore its rich color, floriferous nature, and the promise of the Wave brand. Like other Easy Wave varieties, it’s a standout for baskets and window boxes, mixed containers, as well as beds and borders. Burgundy Velor and Red Velor also scored well. Grow in sun; bred by PanAmerican Seed.

Petunia Picotee Blue

There’s been a lot of buzz about bicolor flowers. Consumers often find them bolder and a better value. Picotee Blue is an eyecatcher that produces tons of white blooms edged in violet blue. Its also a lovely landscape plant. Grow in sun; bred by Syngenta.

For some of today’s consumers, “container gardening” is a bit of an outdated term—especially those consumers who don’t consider themselves gardeners. One way to better catch the attention of these consumers is to remind them that it’s an exercise in decorating with live plants. But just changing the way we think about gardening versus outdoor decorating it isn’t enough. A good many consumers, especially millennials, also need guidance in how to decorate their outdoor spaces with plants. Consider utility: Potted gardens can be a great way to provide extra privacy along the edge of a patio, deck, or balcony, for example. Taller plants like majesty palms make for a lovely living screen. Likewise, color bowls can be considered centerpieces—must-have accessories for outdoor parties and dinners. And hanging baskets are that perfect finishing touch for a front porch. Positioning container gardens as seasonal decor also helps convince consumers to replace their containers every few months to keep plants looking fresh and colors in sync with the time of year.

Fantastic Fantastic Fillers

Fantastic Fillers


Dianthus Dash Crimson

Lantana Bandana Cherry Imp

Lobelia Bella Cielo

Dianthus Dash Crimson

Dianthus Olivia

Its rich color made Dash Crimson stand out in our Trial Garden; the deep, velvety red blends well with many other flowers for a rich look. The fragrance is also especially nice. It’s equally good in containers as the landscape. Dash Magician also scored well. Grow in sun; bred by PanAmerican Seed.

Dianthus Olivia creates a dramatic contrast with its white petals edged in deep burgundy red. Its low, spreading shape makes it an ideal choice for small pots (such as color bowls), mixed containers, or massing in the landscape where it can complement red or white flowers. Grow in sun; bred by Dummen Group.

Dianthus Kahori

Diascia Aurora Apricot

Neat and tidy, Kahori dianthus delights home gardeners with its mounds of grassy foliage topped by a seemingly endless supply of bright pink flowers. It’s ideal for early-spring containers, especially when paired with other fragrantflower varieties. Grow in sun; bred by Dummen Group.

Aurora Apricot and Aurora Light Pink put on a big show in our Trial Garden. The well-branched plants produced lots of blooms. The two are fantastic for adding soft, airy texture to mixed containers/baskets. They also boast excellent landscape performance. Grow in sun; presented by PlantHaven.

Dianthus Kahori

Lobelia Sunbelia Cpt Sky Blue

Diascia Sundiascia Upright Blush Pink

This variety, as well as Upright Orange, earned top marks for their abundance of flowers and upright habits. They make excellent partners for more mounding varieties in mixed containers and also look good grown on their own as specimens. Grow in sun; bred by Suntory.

Dianthus Olivia

Diascia Aurora Apricot

Lobelia Techo Heat Upright

Osteospermum Akila White

Lantana Bandana Cherry Improved

Home gardeners know lantana for its heat and drought resistance; many think of it as a big, vigorous plant, though. More compact varieties, such as Bandana Cherry Improved, are ideal for containers (but still rock stars in home and commercial landscapes). Grow in sun; bred by Syngenta.

Lobelia Bella Cielo

Three selections in the Bella series—Cielo, Aqua, and Oceano­­—displayed an abundance of blooms and excellent mounding, upright habits. They’re outstanding for baskets, as well as adding an airy texture to mixed containers, color bowls, and the landscape. Grow in sun; bred by Dummen Group.

Gazania Big Kiss Red with Ring

Another example of a bold, bicolor flower, Gazania Big Kiss Red with Ring (as well as Big Kiss Yellow with Ring) produces daisyshaped flowers consumers love. The heat and drought resistance is a big bonus, especially for containers. Grow in sun; bred by Syngenta.

Women are more likely to research plants with a smartphone; men are more likely to purchase plants online with one. *HortTechnology, 2013

“Hanging baskets” has been an increasingly trendy internet search term on Google since 2011. *Google Trends

Diascia Sundiascia Blush Pink

Osteospermum New Purple

Gazania Big Kiss Red w Ring

Phlox Paparazzi Jagger

Salvia Sallyrosa Dark Pink

Lobelia Sunbelia Compact Sky Blue

Osteospermum Akila White Improved

Phlox Paparazzi Jagger

Akila White Improved and Akila Daisy White impressed us with tidy, upright habits and lots of attractive daisyshaped flowers that have tremendous appeal to home gardeners. Pair them with dianthus for a musthave cool-season combo. Grow in sun; bred by Ball FloraPlant.

This perennial selection wowed us with its tidy habit and wonderful display of lovely lavender-blue blooms. As a perennial, this phlox is perfect for sunny landscapes, but don’t overlook it in earlyspring containers where it pairs beautifully with dianthus, or lobelia. Grow in sun; presented by EuroAmerican Propagators.

Lobelia Techno Heat Upright Light Blue

Osteospermum New Purple

Salvia Sallyrosa Dark Pink

Its fantastic mounding habit and flower coverage made this variety a Trial Garden standout. Like other upright lobelias, it adds lushness to containers and presents a heavenly look when massed in landscape beds and borders. Grow in sun; bred by Suntory.

Both this variety and Techno Heat Upright Purple showed off nice mounding habits and wonderful floriferousness. They make for fantastic choices in hanging baskets, window boxes, mixed pots, and the landscape. Grow in sun; bred by Syngenta.

Week after week New Purple, New Cream, New White, and New Yellow charmed us with their consistent habits and flower production. Like other osteos, they charm consumers in the Easter/ Mother’s Day timeframe. Grow in sun; bred by Danziger.

Outstanding for its ability to hold up to tough conditions from frost to drought, Sallyrosa Dark Pink has lots of consumer appeal thanks to its ability to attract butterflies and hummingbirds—and adds an upright, vertical feel to plantings. Grow in sun; bred by Danziger.

Bold Fantastic Thrillers

Bold Thrillers

Gerbera Mega Revolution Red

Argyranthemum Beauty Yellow

Gardeners love this plant’s simple, daisy-shaped flowers. Argyranthemum’s mounding habit and excellent flower coverage makes it an eye-catching addition to in containers or in the landscape. Grow in sun; bred by WestFlowers.

Argyranthemum Comet White Imp.

Comet Pink and Comet White Improved offer impressive potential for filling large containers with bold spring color. The daisy-shaped blooms appear in abundance and the controlled habits look nice as specimen plantings or mixed with other varieties. Grow in sun; bred by Dummen Group.


Argyranthemum Beauty Yellow

Argyranthemum Comet White

Begonia Big Green Lf Pink

Caladium Red Hot

Impatiens Big Bounce Cherry

Impatiens Bounce Pink Flame

Impatiens Magnum Lav Splash

Impatiens Petticoat Stars

Gaillardia Sunset Mexican

Gerbera Mega Revolutions Red with Dark Eye

Begonia Big Green Leaf Pink

The Big series—proven performers in beds and borders—are also lowmaintenance, eye-catching elements for mixed containers. Green Leaf Pink and Green Leaf Red are just what consumers need. Grow in sun or shade; bred by Benary.

Caladium Red Hot

Like its name suggests, Red Hot offered a bold splash of color in our Trial Garden. The triangular leaves add dramatic texture to plantings, as well. Mix it with begonias or white New Guinea impatiens— or let it stand out all on its own. No matter how its grown, consumers will love it. Grow in shade; bred by Classic Caladiums.

Gaillardia Sunset Mexican and Sunset Flash offer gardeners a wide variety of attributes: They bloom continuously, they attract butterflies, they tolerate drought, and grow in just about any sunny spot. Grow in sun; presented by PlantHaven.

Gerbera is an excellent impulse item in the store— gardeners are charmed by its big blooms. The deep red flowers are an excellent pairing for purple or silver foliage in mixed pots. Grow in sun; bred by PanAmerican Seed.

Impatiens Big Bounce Cherry

Big Bounce Cherry, Lavender, Red, and Violet were shining stars in the garden thanks to their floriferousness and upright habits. They’re sure to be consumer favorites for landscapes and containers. Grow in shade; bred by Ball FloraPlant.

Geranium Dixieland Deep Red

What’s the most iconic flower in the garden center? A red geranium. This one offered lots and lots of flowers and kept its compact habit. Whether it’s used in containers with sweet alyssum and dracaena spikes or treated in a fun, different way, red geranium is a must-have item. Grow in sun; bred by Dummen Group.

Gaillardia Sunset Mexican

Penstemon Riding Hood

Impatiens Bounce Lavender Splash

Like the Big Bounce series (though we didn’t find much of a size difference), Bounce Cherry, Pink Flame, Violet, and White Blush are also standouts for shaded gardens and containers. Grow in shade; bred by Ball FloraPlant.

New Guinea Impatiens Magnum Lavender Splash Consumers are increasingly interested in global connections— plants with European roots, for example, but are locally grown. *Mintel, 2013

According to Google, consumers need options for shade; “shade flowers” has been growing in search volume. *Google Trends

Noted for extra-large flowers, the Magnum series stands out in the shade. Two varieties— Lavender Splash and Wild Salmon—also stood out in our Trial Garden for their excellent performance and showiness. Consumers appreciate their bold appeal. Grow in shade; bred by Dummen Group.

Geranium Dixieland Deep Red

Rose Sunrosa Red


New Guinea Impatiens Petticoat Stars Bright Red Star

Rose Sunrosa Red

Another representation of the bicolor trend, Bright Red Star and Orange Star 2014 sparkled in our Trial Garden. Like other New Guineas, they’re eyecatching options for shade. Grow in shade; bred by Dummen Group.

Called the queen of flowers, roses have a quality that captivates home gardeners. Sunrosa Red and Sunrosa Yellow offer compact habits, fantastic disease resistance, and lots of beautiful double blooms that are perfect for cutting. Grow in sun; bred by Suntory.

Penstemon Riding Hood Delft Blue

SunPatiens Exp. Lavender

Penstemon, an easy-care perennial, adds height and drama to mixed containers and landscape beds and borders. This variety offered purple-blue flowers, excellent tolerance to drought, and is attractive to hummingbirds and butterflies—all traits home gardeners seek out. Grow in shade; bred by Dummen Group.

It’s no surprise SunPatiens are top performers. In our early-season trials Spreading Corona, Exp. Shell Pink, Exp. Lavender, Exp. Compact Light Lilac, Royal Magenta, Compact Red, Compact Pink, and Compact Hot Coral performed beautifully, showing off lots of flowers and excellent habits. Grow in sun or shade; bred by Sakata.

Costa Farms 2014 Season Premier Early-Season Top Performers  

Here's a peek into 70 top varieties evaluated in the Costa Farms Trial Garden.