Best annual and perennial varieties according to the 2021 Michigan Plant Trials

MSU and each cooperating firm in the Michigan Garden Plant Tour trialed varieties throughout last summer and chose their best-of-the-best and visitor favorites from the 2021 trials.

Dozens of flowers in a garden.
Photo by Heidi Lindberg, MSU Extension

The Michigan Garden Plant Tour is a coordinated open house of leading young plant producers and Michigan State University. The tour educates professional growers and industry professionals about plant selections and their garden performance. During 2021, the young plant producers who trialed varieties for the Michigan Garden Plant Tour were Mast Young Plants, Pell Greenhouses, Walter’s Gardens, Raker-Roberta’s and Four Star Greenhouses. Each of the young plant producers developed a short list of the most impressive cultivars in their 2021 trials and produced videos showcasing some of those varieties. In this article, you can view the videos about each of the trial garden locations and see which varieties were the best of the trial season.

Mast Young Plants

The trial garden at Mast Young Plants included 1,500-plus varieties with 135 of them new for 2021-2022. In the 2021 gardens, there were over 500 custom-designed hanging baskets and patio pot combinations and 20 raised beds. The most notable varieties from the 2021 trials were:

  • Helianthus ‘Sol Seeker’ – Danziger
  • Crespedia Golf Beauty Improved – Danziger
  • Petunia Itsy White – Syngenta
  • Supercal Pechoa Sunset Orange – Sakata
  • Petunia Blanket Silver Surprise – Greenfuse

To learn more, check out their trial garden website.


Pell Greenhouses

Pell Greenhouses featured many varieties that they sell as young plants in their 2021 trial garden, including the full product line from GreenFuse Botanicals. The most notable varieties from the 2021 trials were:

  • Rudbeckia ‘Rising Sun Chestnut Gold’ – GreenFuse Botanicals INC.
  • Rex Begonia Bewitched Red-Black - Greenfuse Botanicals INC.
  • Rex Begonia Bewitched Pink - Greenfuse Botanicals INC.
  • Rex Begonia Shadow King ‘Cherry Mint’ - Greenfuse Botanicals INC.
  • Verbena Durabella ‘Perfectly Purple’ - Danziger
  • Verbena Durabella ‘April in Paris– Danziger
  • Petunia Crazytunia ‘Cosmic Pink’ – Westhoff
  • Petunia Crazytunia ‘Mayan Sunset’ - Westhoff
  • Petunia Crazytunia ‘Black Mamba’ - Westhoff, Proven Winners
  • Osteospermum Ostica ‘Amethyst’ – Danziger


Walter’s Gardens

The Display Gardens at Walter’s Gardens showcases the landscape performance of the Proven Winners Perennial collection, including Hosta, Daylilies and Hardy Hibiscus. The top 11 plants from the 2021 trial garden included:

  • Prairie Winds ‘Lemon Squeeze’
  • Allium ‘Serendipity’
  • Daylily Rainbow Rhythm ‘Sound of My Heart’
  • Origanum ‘Drops of Jupiter’
  • Salvia ‘Pink Profusion’
  • Sedum Rock ‘N Low ‘Yellow Brick Road’
  • Sedum Rock ‘N Low ‘Back in Black’
  • Phlox Luminary ‘Backlight’
  • Phlox Luminary ‘Ultraviolet’
  • Amsonia ‘String Theory’
  • Hibiscus Summerific ‘Edge of Night’


Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants

The trial garden at Raker-Roberta’s Young Plants consists of more than 7 acres with 100,000 unique plants. The most notable varieties from the 2021 trials were:

  • Begonia I’conia – Dummen Orange (Best overall performance annual)
  • Artemisia Gmelinii Sunfern – Darwin Perennials (Best overall performance perennial)
  • Bracteantha Bracteatum Granvia Gold – Suntory Flowers
  • Petunia Hells – Westoff
  • Lantana Heartland Series – Dummen Orange
  • Coleus Spitfire – Ball Floraplant
  • Cleome Sparkler 2.0 – Syngenta Flowers (Best heat tolerant annual)

You can find more information at the Raker-Roberta’s Trial Garden website. Under the trial data tab, you can see photos and overall performance scores of the top 50 varieties from various genera and breeders over the last four years.


Four Star Greenhouses

The trial garden at Four Star Greenhouses showed off their 2022 varieties and a large display combination in Aquapot containers. The most noteworthy varieties from the 2021 trials were:

  • Petunia, Supertunia Vista Jazzberry
  • Sunflower, Suncredible Saturn
  • Lantana, Luscious Citron
  • Supertunia Priscilla
  • Salvia, Unplugged Pink
  • Coleus, ColorBlaze El Brighto


MSU Trial Gardens

MSU Trial Gardens trialed 300 plant varieties including annuals, perennials and vegetables in their 2-acre trial gardens in 2021. The trial gardens at MSU are unique in that they simulate a more typical garden experience, whereby they provide the level of plant care and maintenance that a typical gardener would provide, i.e., only irrigating when needed and fertilizing two to three times per season. The top varieties in their 2021 trials were:

  • Angelonia Angelface Cascade Blue – Proven Winners
  • Angelonia Angelface Cascade White – Proven Winners
  • Begonia Viking Explorer Red on Green – Sakata
  • Calibrachoa Bloomtastic Rose Quartz, Chili Pepper, Yellow – Dummen Orange
  • Calibrachoa MiniFamous Neo Hawaii – Selecta One
  • Calibrachoa Rainbow Flamingo Flair - Dummen Orange
  • Calibrachoa Rainbow Pink Pepperberry - Dummen Orange
  • Calibrachoa Superbells Double Amber – Proven Winners
  • Lantana Shamrock – Ball FloraPlant
  • Coleus, ColorBlaze El Brighto
  • Coleus, Stained Glassworks Velvet – Dummen Orange
  • Heliotrope Jamesbrittenia Safari Series – Proven Winners
  • Marigold Endurance Series – Syngenta (Interspecific hybrid)
  • Marigold White Swan – AmeriSeed
  • Impatiens Spectra Series – Syngenta (Interspecific hybrid)
  • Petunia ColorRush Merlot Star Improved – BallFloraPlant
  • Petunia Dekko Sorbet – Syngenta
  • Petunia Sanguna Mango Punch – Syngenta
  • Salvia, Unplugged Pink
  • Salvia I'Conia Hummingbird Falls – Dummen Orange
  • Torenia Hi-Lite Mix – Syngenta
  • Zinnia Profusion Red Yellow Bicolor – Sakata
  • Begonia I’conia Costa del Sol – Dummen Orange


  • Basil Everleaf Thai Towers - PanAmerican Seed
  • Pepper Pot-a-peño - PanAmerican Seed
  • Pepper Candy Cane Chocolate Cherry - PanAmerican Seed


  • Heuchera Dressed Up Evening Gown – Walter’s Gardens
  • Heuchera Little Cuties Shimmer – Terra Nova
  • Brunnera Queen of Hearts – Walter’s Gardens
  • Agastache Kudos Red – Terra Nova
  • Echinacea Kismet Intense Orange – Terra Nova
  • Echinacea Sunny Days Ruby – Terra Nova
  • Origanum Drops of Jupiter

For more information, check out the MSU 2021 Trial Booklet.

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