Ohio State Plant Trials Bring Out the Best in Annuals

April 14, 2005

SPRINGFIELD, Ohio — The green industry and the customers it serves are always on the hunt for the cutting-edge plant cultivars that excel in performance and require little maintenance.

Ohio State University Extension horticulturists in Clark County are in their seventh year of annuals trials for the purpose of determining which plants meet those market standards. Annuals are plants that live only one season.

"With today's lifestyle, gardeners want things that look good and are easy to grow, but require little maintenance," said Pam Bennett, an OSU Extension Educator in horticulture and head of the ongoing project. "The purpose of the trials is to determine what plants grow well in our area without such maintenance needs as deadheading, pruning, or mulching, and share some of those cutting-edge annuals with the community."

Since 1998, researchers have tested over 1,500 cultivars for such characteristics as plant health, growth habits and aesthetics. The plants start off in the greenhouse as shoots and are then transplanted into the field in the spring. Over the summer, the plants are monitored with little or no maintenance intervention. The plants are rated on a scale of 1 to 5, with a "1" being the least desirable.

"Basically, what you see is what you get," said Bennett, noting the uniqueness of the trials. The result is a list of worthy cultivars that are recommended to the green industry.

"The results are important to growers and garden centers because they present new and different cultivars to the market," said Kathy McConkey, one of the project's assistants. "The trials are also important because they help educate customers on gardening methods."

This year, around 175 cultivars are being tested through a partnership with the National Trail Parks and Recreation in Clark County. Examples of plants that have met the trials requirements include Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost' — a fast-growing, airy plant — and Sutera ‘Glacier Blue' — a large-flowering blue-lavender variety with an upright growth habit — both of which perform well in container gardening; any variety of Coleus, a foliage bedding plant known to grow well in shade or sun; and Angelonia, an outstanding performer in both wet and dry seasons and makes a good cut flower.

"We invite the public to visit the Clark County Extension office and see the trials anytime," said Bennett. The cultivars are tested in the county Extension gardens located behind the office.

For more information, contact Pam Bennett at (937) 328-4607 or e-mail bennett.27@osu.edu.

Author(s): 
Candace Pollock
Source(s): 
Pam Bennett