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All About Award Winning Plants

award winning plants
Winter means Awards Season - but for more than just the movie and music industries! January is also the time to start thinking about red-carpet plants. What will the best-dressed gardens be wearing this season? You can get a preview of what's likely to be

Why Award-Winning Plants Matter

Just like watching movies that have won top accolades means that you're more likely to enjoy your time viewing them, you can also have better luck working with plants that have been vouched-for.

More than just a popularity contest, award-winning plant lists are a great way to get familiar with plants that really perform. You can be sure that any plant who's received one of these prestigious honors will be an easy to grow, eye-catching variety. After all, these are the flowers that help set the standards plant breeders are aiming for.

Who Chooses Award Winning Plants?

Several organizations offer awards for outstanding plants and each has its own criteria for selecting winners. Some of the groups are regional and promote plants that are particularly well-suited to that climate; others are international in scope. Some promote only new varieties, while others award plants of outstanding merit, new or not. Some, like the non-profit plant trialers at All-America Selections, limit their choices to varieties available as seed.

Many organizations pick winning plants in very specific categories, such as: Daylily of the Year, Hosta of the Year, and even the Urban Tree of the Year.

Since 1990, the Perennial Plant Association (PPA) has chosen a stand-out flower variety to bestow their greatest honor upon: the Plant of the Year. With the entire membership casting their vote, plant contenders must be able to grow in a wide variety of climates, be easy to care for, and fairly-resistant to disease.

To date, there are 30 winning varieties that have laid claim to the Plant of the Year Title:

millenium allium

2018: 'Millenium' Allium
Allium Millenium

butterfly weed

2017: Butterfly Weed
Asclepias tuberosa

honorine anemone

2016: 'Honorine Jobert' Anemone
Anemone hybrida

biokobo cranesbill

2015: 'Biokovo' Cranesbill
Geranium cantabrigiense

northwind switchgrass

2014: 'Northwind' Switchgrass
Panicum virgatum

solomons seal

2013: Variegated Solomon's Seal
Polygonatum odoratum

jack frost brunnera

2012: 'Jack Frost' Brunnera
Brunnera macrophylla

arkansas blue star

2011: Arkansas Blue Star
Amsonia hubrichtii

blue false indigo

2010: Blue False Indigo
Baptisia australis

aureola japanese forest grass

2009: 'Aureola' Japanese Forest Grass
Hakonechloa macra

rozanne cranesbill

2008: 'Rozanne' Cranesbill

walkers low nepeta faasenii

2007: 'Walker's Low'
Nepeta faasenii

firewitch pinks

2006: 'Firewitch' Pinks
Dianthus gratianopolitanus

lenten rose

2005: Lenten Rose
Helleborus x hybridus

japanese painted fern

2004: Japanese Painted Fern
Athyrium 'Pictum'

becky shasta daisy

2003: 'Becky' Shasta Daisy
Leucanthemum superbum

david phlox

2002: 'David' Phlox
Phlox paniculata

karl foerster

2001: 'Karl Foerster' Feather Reed Grass
Calamagrostis acutiflora

butterfly bush

2000: 'Butterfly Blue' Pincushion Flower
'Scabiosa columbaria

black eyed susan

1999: 'Goldsturm' Black Eyed Susan
Rudbeckia fulgida

magnus purple coneflower

1998: 'Magnus' Purple Coneflower
Echinacea purpurea

may night meadow sage

1997: 'May Night' Meadow Sage
Salvia nemorosa

husker red beardtongue

1996: 'Husker Red' Beardtongue
Penstemon digitalis

russian sage

1995: Russian Sage
Perovskia atriplicifolia

sprite dwarf astilbe

1994: 'Sprite' Dwarf Astilbe
Astilbe simplicifolia

veronica speedwell

1993: 'Sunny Border Blue' Speedwell

moonbeam tickseed

1992: 'Moonbeam' Tickseed
Coreopsis verticillata

coral bells

1991: 'Palace Purple' Coral Bells
Heuchera mincanthra

More Award-Winning Plants

Veggie varieties and annual flowers are also planted in trial beds and put through rigorous observation and testing before being selected and promoted as award winners.

All-America Selections Awards for Outstanding Seed Varieties

The mission statement of All-America Selections (AAS) is "To promote new garden seed varieties with superior garden performance judged in impartial trials in North America." To this end, since 1932 AAS has worked with seed companies to conduct trials nationwide to evaluate plants under a range of growing conditions. Many of the winners have been around for decades and continue to be popular in home gardens. For example:

Fleuroselect Home Garden Association - International Selections

An international trade group of the ornamental plants industry, Fleuroselect tests and promotes new annual and perennial flower varieties, and also acts as a watchdog for illegal propagation of patent-protected varieties. Toward its goal of supporting growers and stimulating plant breeding efforts, Fleuroselect conducts plant trials across Europe. Here are a few past winners:

So what will the best-dressed gardens be wearing this season? You can bet this year's award-winning plants will be in vogue. However, if you're like us, your garden might wear the latest plant fashions but you, on the other hand, will be far less fashionable — unless old T-shirts and muddy work boots find their way to Paris runways.