Coleus Stained Glassworks - Dummen Orange

Audacious New Annuals By Vaughn Fletcher

Each year, Costa Farms in Florida hosts the big kickoff to the trial season. These 2020 annual introductions were standout performers and should be on your radar as you plan next year’s production.

I have always looked forward with excitement and enthusiasm to beginning of the trial season at Costa Farms in southern Florida. This is one of the premier annual and perennial trials with many of the new and most unique introductions for 2020. I visited the trial week 4 when everything was in the early stages of growth and returned week 12 to evaluate more mature and colorful plants. The trial material was planted around week 50 in beds, so what I observed following 14 weeks of heat, humidity and rain is what you would expect to see in many northern trials later in August.

My focus is on plant habit and flowers, specifically the attributes of intense coloration, uniqueness, color stability, saturation and floriferousness. The varieties I have highlighted are in summer trials throughout the country and will demonstrate many of the attributes described in this article. This is Part 1 of my overview of the trial, and Part 2 in July will highlight new perennial introductions.


The begonia introductions the past few years have been outstanding and groundbreaking, and this development continues with the hybrid Viking seed series for 2020. This is comprised of a midsize series of eight colors and the larger, more vigorous XL series of four colors which includes the All-America Selections winner Red on Chocolate. This variety was eye catching with the exceptional contrasting vibrant flower color and deep dark foliage. Both series displayed high impact with upright vigor, uniformity, lustrous foliage and prodigious flowers. The flower size and canopy coverage matches competitive series in its class, based on this trial.

Syngenta Flowers

Three colors were introduced for production in 2019: Pink, Scarlet and White. Rose Bicolor is the new addition for 2020, and it had large, well-defined, distinctive and stable rose bicolor flowers in January and in late March. The series was represented in multiple trial sites last year and manifested outstanding performance throughout the summer. The attributes manifested in the trials included flower stability, extra large flowers matching the competition in this class, mounded form and strong branching. I was impressed with the durability in the trial beds and the flower coverage. This is a versatile series with production application in 306 packs, gallons, patio containers and ultimately consumer containers, beds and landscape sites.

Dümmen Orange

When I think about the plethora of annual introductions over the
past 10 years and the genus that has become ubiquitous in multiple trials and wholesale and retail programs it is solenostemon, commonly called coleus.

We have a multitude of coleus vegetative series and collections available now, including rediscovered older varieties and many with multicolored foliage, assorted sizes, habits, leaf shapes, and sun or shade adaptability. The Stained Glassworks collection has been in the market for many years, and Dümmen Orange continues to add varieties to the collection every year. I highlighted the outstanding color and performance of Royalty last year. One of the introductions for 2020 is Velvet, with a velvety leaf texture, a chartreuse midrib and burgundy margin. This is a shade-adaptable selection and was the most dynamic and colorful in the Costa trial. There are 14 varieties in this collection, and they are wonderful accents plants in borders, beds and containers.

Ball FloraPlant

Cuphea Honeybells - Ball FloraPlant

There are more than 250 species of cuphea, and we are most familiar with varieties within the species ignea, hyssopifolia, micropetalia, ramosissima and llavea. This genus is native to warm temperate and tropical regions and provides exceptional garden performance with heat and drought tolerance. ‘Honeybells’ is a standalone interspecific cuphea with distinctive and eye-popping bicolor rose and light yellow tipped tubular shaped flowers. It is floriferous with a semi-trailing habit. It was utilized in basket and container combinations and was flowering prolifically in late January and late March. This variety will have outstanding application in mixed containers and baskets in part shade to full sun and will endure and thrive throughout the summer. We have seen some exciting cuphea introductions, and this will continue as breeders tap the genetic potential due in part to the exceptional summer application of this genus.

Syngenta Flowers

Syngenta has developed and introduced many outstanding lantana series including Bandana, Landscape Bandana, Bandito and, for 2020, the Bandolero. One of the important breeding goals of this introduction is to give growers a vigorous series that can grow and finish under cooler conditions. This new series is comprised of six varieties — Cherry Sunrise, Guava, Pineapple, Red, Pink, and White — which were represented in the trial. What was eye catching was the large multicolored inflorescences on a mounded but vigorous plant. This series is promoted as an improved Bandana with 30% more vigor and larger umbels. This will be important for northern and southern growers and will provide a series with a unique mix of colors. Production application will be 2.5 quarts, combinations, patio containers and beds.

Syngenta Flowers

This standalone variety had a limited release for the spring season and will be available as a URC and in liner form from regional root and sell suppliers for 2020. Syngenta has trialed ‘Hot Blooded’ in multiple locations since 2016, and sterility has been confirmed through rigid testing protocols. This variety is more vigorous than the Bandana series, and it manifested a high umbel count in the trial with deep red flowers and a mounded, well branched habit. Flower cycling should be minimal with no seed formation, and flowering should be heavy throughout the season. Production application will include 2.5 quarts, combinations and patio containers. Expect to see this variety is summer trials throughout the country and performance information will be available. Syngenta plans to trial and introduce additional varieties to build a series in the future.

PanAmerican Seed

PanAmerican Seed continues to add to this series on a consistent basis, and Lavender Sky Blue has been introduced for 2020. It was characterized in the trial by outstanding uniformity, mounded growth habit, eye-catching color gradation and a prolific flower canopy. The flower shades will be darker under cooler temperatures and lower light conditions in the northern regions. This variety requires 9.5 hours to trigger bud initiation. This will be an excellent color component in mixed containers and basket programs and will provide outstanding garden performance as demonstrated by the series over many seasons.

Green Fuse Botanicals

In the last two years we have seen the introduction of remarkable interspecific salvia, and the Fashion series for 2020 augments the assortment. This species is sometimes called Fuchsia Sage with pendulous tubular flowers and aromatic, dark green, glossy foliage. This series appeared more compact than other interspecifics in the trial. The upright architecture coupled with the flower canopy rising above the foliage will make for a dramatic thriller in containers and in bed plantings. There are five colors in the series, and Rose, with black calyxes and a delicate pink blush corolla, was the most vivacious and eye catching. This series can be used in partial shade or full sun. It is daylength neutral and matures at 24 to 30 inches. Last, but not least, the series is a magnet for hummingbirds and butterflies.

Syngenta Flowers

The first question that comes to mind is, “What is XDR?” The answer is extra disease resistance! This new genetic series, comprised of 10 colors and a mix for 2020, has undergone independent rigorous testing in North America. It off ers significant improvements over classic Cora, including greater disease resistance from 20 isolates of aerial Phytophthora, and improved vigor, uniformity, branching and floriferousness. These attributes were evident in the Costa trial. There is no true red in the XDR series, so the Classic Red will remain. It is, however, the only disease-resistant red on the market, but has not reached the highest XDR standards of the new series. The XDR series will include the first polka dot in the Coras. We will see new core and novelty colors in the near future.


Verbena Vanessa - Danziger

Danziger introduced the Vanessa series two years ago and introduced the new sub series Vanessa Compact for 2020. It is comprised of eight colors including two bicolors. The spreading Vanessa series was entered in multiple trials throughout North America last year, and the performance was outstanding. Flower cycling was minimal, there was no incidence of powdery mildew, and the plants manifested strong color retention throughout the season with excellent flower coverage. The Vanessa compacts in the Costa trial reflected the same attributes but with a more controlled and compact growth habit. This is a competitive and crowded class, but based on performance last year and in this early trial it is comparable and a serious challenger.

Vaughn Fletcher

Vaughn Fletcher is president of Fletcher Consulting. He has been in the horticulture industry since 1971, working in many areas including landscaping, garden center and greenhouse production, greenhouse and nursery sales and sales management. He can be reached at