Consumer Picks from 2021 Annual Flower Trials

By James E. Klett, Ph.D. Professor & Landscape Horticultural Specialist Colorado State University

On Saturday July 31, 2021, the Colorado State University Annual Flower Trial Garden hosted a Consumer Day to get a feel for what the general consumer of annual flowers looks for when they are acquiring annual bedding plants for their landscapes. We had close to 400 attend that Saturday morning in Fort Collins, Colo. This is only the third year we have conducted a Consumer Day since it was cancelled in 2020 due to COVID-19.

We gave all the attendees three flags and asked them to choose their top three varieties out of close to 1,100 different varieties planted in the Trials in 2021. The following nine plants were their favorites.

On the following Tuesday, August 3, we welcomed close to 150 professionals to judge all the entries ,and we are currently tabulating those results. I feel those results will be quite different from what the general public picked.

The Trial Garden is planned and maintained each year by the Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture with guidance from a committee of growers, flower seed and plant company personnel, public garden horticulturists, and advanced Master Gardeners.

Top Nine Consumer Preferences

Dahlia City Lights™ Purple from Selecta One

The dark foliage complements the nice purple bicolor flowers. Plants attract many pollinators and spent flowers are hidden well with little deadheading. This plant was the top vote-getter in the garden. It was also our “Best of Show” plant in 2019.

Dahlia DARLIN’ Burgundy Lace from Danziger

This dahlia had large double burgundy blooms with white tips at the edges on the flower petals. The deep burgundy flowers were a good contrast to the deep green foliage.

Coleus Color Blaze® Torchlight from Proven Winners

This coleus had a very vigorous growth habit with attractive purple, green and red tricolor foliage. No flowering was observed, which is a plus for coleus.

Celosia Bright Sparks™ Burgundy from Syngenta Flowers

The bright red flowers on this Celosia are large, which compliments the darker burgundy foliage well. The plants were very uniform in growth habit and prefer sun and less moisture.

Dahlia x hortensis ‘Lubega Dark Red Glow’ from Benary Plus

This dahlia had single red flowers that contrasted nicely next to the dark-colored foliage on the plant. This variety really attracted many different type of pollinators.

Portulaca grandiflora ‘Sundial Mix’ from Benary Plus

This portulaca was a mass of multiple, double-colored flowers, which was a magnet for many pollinators. Pollinator plants really seemed to be favorites with consumers this season.

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Sunbeckia Luna’ from Flamingo Holland/Ball

This Rudbeckia was a standout and could be noticed from quite a distance in the trials. The flowers were very large and had a yellow/red bicolor. The stems were strong and plants did not lodge with overhead irrigation. The growth habit was uniform and mounding.

Coleus ‘Stained Glassworks Royalty’ from Dummen Orange

This coleus had a more compact growth habit with vibrant pink/maroon bicolor foliage with nice, serrated edges to the leaves. Again, little to no flowering was observed on this variety.

Begonia ‘Rex Jurassic™ Pink Splash’ from Ball Ingenuity

The large, showy pink-to-purple and silver foliage was outstanding along with some small pale pink flowers. The plants had a more upright uniform growth habit.

These are just nine of consumers’ top choices and growers will want to grow and sell them for the 2022 season. For more information on these and other outstanding annuals from the 2021 Trials, visit