In Lancaster County, we have our own flower trial garden where ag scientists evaluate more than 900 varieties of flowers every year. They study how each plant handles Pennsylvania’s climate and pests. At the Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension Center near Spooky Nook Sports, staff monitor the plants for their growth and uniformity, plus the flowers and foliage.

Here are the top-performing varieties of a few popular plants over a period of several years. Information on dozens more plants, from achillea (yarrow) to zinnias can be found online.  

To see the plants in person, the flower trials are open June 1 to Aug. 31 from dawn to dusk.

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FlameThrower Serrano 


Variety: FlameThrower “Serrano”

Average flower trial rating: 5 out of 5 (13 varieties evaluated)

Flower color: Foliage is deep red lined in lime green.

Size: 13 inches tall, 31 inches wide

Benefits: Bold foliage color sin a compact habit with unique-shaped leaves thrives in sun and shade.

Judge’s comments: Outstanding, best of show. Received a perfect 5 in sun.

Other top performers: FlameThrower “Chili Pepper,” a red coleus with green margins, received a 4.96 rating.

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City Lights Lavender 


Variety: City Lights “Lavender Pink”

Average flower trial rating: 4.69 out of 5 (42 varieties evaluated)

Flower color: Lavender violet

Size: 17 inches tall, 19 inches wide

Benefits: Dark-leafed dahlia helps the bi-color flowers pop. Attracts butterflies and birds.

Judge’s comments: Excellent bud count. 

Other top performers: Labella Maggiore “DAXX 3639”  (pink) and Labella Maggiore “Purple” (violet)

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Variety: SunStanding Helios “Coral Aurora”

Average flower trial rating: 4.94 out of 5 (46 varieties evaluated)

Flower color: Coral

Size: 22 inches tall, 24 inches wide

Benefits: Thrives in full sun, flowers through the summer.

Judge’s comments: Very strong color. Excellent bloomer

Other top performers: Beacon “Coral,” “Salmon” and “White” were the top walleriana varieties; SunPatiens Compact “Orchard Blush,” SunPatiens Vigorous “Rose Pink” and SunPatiens Vigorous “Shell Pink” were the top hybrid varieties.



Variety: Kelos “Fire Purple”

Average flower trial rating: 4.97 out of 5 (13 varieties evaluated)

Flower color: Dark violet

Size: 13 inches tall, 20 inches wide

Benefits: The plumes hold their purple  color through summer and into fall.

Judge’s comments: Excellent, best of show.

Other top performers: Kelos “Fire Orange,” Kelos “Fire Scarlet,” Kelos “Fire Yellow,” Kelos “Atomic Neon Pink” and Kelos “Fire Red” received ratings higher than 4.5.

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Variety: Crown Jewel “Joyful Jasper”

Average flower trial rating: 5 out of 5 (88 varieties evaluated)

Flower color: Rich red

Size: 28 inches tall, 24 inches wide

Benefits: Can grow outdoors in shade and indoors

Judge’s comments: When not in bloom, still had strong foliar color. Won best of show with a perfect 5 score in shade.

Other top performers:  BIG “Red Bronze Leaf” (red with orange tones) and I’CONIA Portofino “Sunrise” (red orange).  Both received 4.91 ratings.


Cabaret Good Night Kiss 


Variety: Cabaret “Good Night Kiss”

Average flower trial rating: 4.91 out of 5 (77 varieties evaluated)

Flower color: Orange with red tones

Size: 9 inches tall, 24 inches wide

Benefits: Attracts bees, butterflies and hummingbirds.

Judge’s comments: Striking color. Very good bloomer.

Other top performers: Superbells Tabletop “White” tied “Good Night Kiss” with the same high score.

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Variety: Supertunia Mini Vista “Indigo”

Average flower trial rating:  4.81 out of 5 (61 varieties evaluated)

Flower color: Blue purple

Size: 11 inches tall, 56 inches wide

Benefits: Attracts butterflies and hummingbirds. Continuous bloom and no dead-heading necessary.

Judge’s comments: Excellent performer. Best of species.

Other top performers: Supertunia “Raspberry Rush” and ColorRush “Blue”