Summer Color Trials Report

North Carolina State University
Raleigh, North Carolina

Mark Weathington

Bernadette Clark
Agricultural Research Technician

Department of Horticultural Science
JC Raulston Arboretum

Table of Contents

Top Performers


Salvia longispicata × farinacea 'Balsalmispim'

Salvia longispicata × farinacea 'Balsalmispim'
Rockin' Playin' the Blues salvia

Salvia longispicata × farinacea 'Balsalmispim'

Salvia longispicata × farinacea 'Balsalmispim'
Mystic Spires Improved

Capsicum annuum

Capsicum annuum
Midnight Fire ornamental pepper

Celosia argentea var. cristata Cristata Group

Celosia argentea var. cristata Cristata Group
Twisted Orange celosia


Supertunia Vista Silverberry petunia

Plectranthus 'UF12735'

Plectranthus 'UF12735'
Flame Thrower Spiced Curry coleus


Main Street Michigan Avenue coleus


Thunbergia alata 'DL1501'

Thunbergia alata 'DL1501'
Tangerine Slice A-Peel black-eyed Susan vine

Thunbergia alata 'Lemon Star'

Thunbergia alata 'Lemon Star'
Lemon A-Peel black-Eyed susan vine


Havana Sunset lantana


Suntunia Purple Sky petunia

Hanging Baskets

Calibrachoa 'Kleca16017'

Calibrachoa 'Kleca16017'
MiniFamous Neo Vampire

Calibroachoa 'Kleca16314'

Calibroachoa 'Kleca16314'
MiniFamous Neo White+Yellow Eye

Calibrachoa 'Kleca16334'

Calibrachoa 'Kleca16334'
MiniFamous Neo Orange+Red Eye


Kirigami ornamental oregano

General Introductory Notes and Acknowledgements

The Trial Gardens for seasonal color plant materials are located at NC State University within the JC Raulston Arboretum (JCRA) in Raleigh. The JCRA is a ten and a half acre site administered by the Department of Horticultural Science and located on 35° 47'N latitude, longitude 78° 42' W, with an elevation of 400'.

Plants to be entered into our trials are received in a variety of ways. About one third are germinated from seeds while the remainder originate as rooted cuttings or established cell plugs. Virtually all are grown within controlled greenhouse environments prior to placement in protected outdoor structures for hardening off. They were planted into their permanent trial bed locations on May 2, 2017. The predominant plant spacing in the bed trials was 18 inches × 24 inches (in-row × between-row spacing). Seven plants of each entry were used to evaluate landscape performance. Hanging baskets contained three plants and were replicated three times. Containers had one plant each and were replicated five times. All ratings were taken weekly.


We thank the following for their support:

  • BASF, 26 Davis Drive, Research Triangle Park, NC 27709
  • Sun Gro Horticulture, 4731 Homestead Place, Matthews, NC 28104

We are especially thankful to the departmental staff and the volunteers of the JC Raulston Arboretum who assisted in transplanting and maintaining the annual beds throughout the growing season … we couldn't have done it without you all!

Understanding Our Data

Number of Weeks in Flower

This is recorded as the total number of weeks in flower throughout the entire season. It should give you an idea of whether or not a plant is best used for the whole season or as a "fill-in" for special displays. Obviously, those species grown for foliage interest alone, e.g. Acalypha, may score poorly in this column and should not be rejected based on this value alone!

Weekly Ratings

Plants were given a visual rating weekly by the same person beginning May 24, 2017 (about three weeks after planting) through September 30, 2017. The overall rating was based on plant performance and appearance, including floriferousness, plant size and shape, and freedom from insect and disease problems. The rating scale ranged from 1 (very poor) to 5 (excellent) with 0.5 unit increments possible; a 0 rating indicated that all plants of the cultivar trial died.

The best way to really evaluate our trials is to come in person. The JCRA is open 365 days a year.

Summaries of Weekly Ratings

The first statistic that readers run to is likely the "all season average." This value represents overall performance for the entire summer season. However, realizing that there are many species/cultivars which may do better in one part of the growing season versus another, we also provide an "early season average" and "late season average" for each entry. The former is the average of the first half of the evaluation period and the latter represents the end of the season. This information may be useful in planning short term plantings with high impact as well as for studying temperature preferences, life cycle changes, and/or the impact of photoperiod on plant performance. The "number of weeks rated above 3" gives you an idea of how consistently throughout the season an entry is an exemplary performer.

The Lists You'll Find In This Report

We started presenting the data in three separate categories in 2012: beds, containers, and hanging baskets. This allows a truer, more equitable way of comparing the entries. Each category will have the individual breakout of data, just like before. For example, you will be able to view a Top 10 listing for beds, containers, and hanging baskets entries.

"The Top 10" (beds, containers, and hanging baskets) – this list shows the species/cultivars with the top ten "All Season Averages." These were our best overall performers. When the list exceeds ten, there were ties.

"Leaders of the Pack" (beds, containers, and hanging baskets) – lists all species/cultivars with an "All Season Average" of 3.5 or better. We consider this the arbitrary cutoff rating for a "significant performer" in Raleigh. This list shows all your best choices for planting, listed by plant name.

"Leaders of the Pack – Early Season" (beds, containers, and hanging baskets) – this shows entries with "Early Season Averages" of 3.5 or better based on the first half of the evaluation period. This group may prefer cooler temperatures or only have a relatively short ornamental life, and might not show up on the "Leaders of the Pack" list above.

"Leaders of the Pack – Late Season" (beds, containers, and hanging baskets) – this shows entries with "Late Season Averages" of 3.5 or better based on the end of the season evaluations. They may prefer very warm temperatures or flower as daylengths start to shorten, again sometimes precluding them from inclusion on the overall "Leaders of the Pack" list.

"Best of Breed" (beds, containers, and hanging baskets) – shows the best performing cultivars in each species.

"Summary by Series" (beds, containers, and hanging baskets) – groups the information for cultivar series where appropriate. This can be a quick reference for related cultivars as well as a handy tool to judge the general performance of an entire series offered by a breeder/company.

"Weekly Ratings" (beds, containers, and hanging baskets) evaluation given for each entry on a weekly basis.

The Average Monthly Precipitation and Temperature for the Summer 2017 Trials

Precipitation  2017 Graph

Average Monthly Temperature 2017 Graph

Our growing conditions this summer started out mild but by July turned hot and dry. In the months of July and August, we experienced long periods of temperatures in the low to mid 90s.

The hottest temperature (101°F) occurred on July 22. We had three consecutive days of 100+ temperatures that occurred from July 21 to July 23. July 2017 was the 6th warmest overall for Raleigh since 1887. The total number of days at or above 90°F was 50, roughly 33% of our growing period.

The heaviest rainfall, which was 2.1", occurred on June 17. The precipitation for May and June was close to normal but for the remaining summer months we had approximately half what we typically receive.

This summer season was challenging for both the geraniums and ptilotus—the early season excess rainfall was problematic for them. They never reached their potential. On the positive side, the milder summer helped extend our growing season into late summer. One example being marigolds, they looked great well past their normal life expectancy. And the return of lower night temperatures (in the 50s) in early September was a welcome relief to many crops. The verbenas are perking up again.


Variance: The Best of Uniformity

Sometimes I think that the one number most often overlooked in our report is the variance. Go to the "Leaders of the Pack" data tables and look for its column. The term itself may be intimidating in light of its mystery, but need not be as it can be most informative. Simply put, the lower the variance, the most alike all plants are in the group evaluated, and hence the greater the uniformity. For so many in the commercial landscaping sector, they live and die by uniformity because appearance can be everything. So, by using a selected variance value of 0.1 as our very tough cut-off, we can really see which plants are setting the standard for superb uniformity. In many cases our results have confirmed some excellent reputations, for others, it's a first time notice.

Variance: All Over the Page

Whereas small variance values indicate excellent uniformity, the opposite can point out cultivars with a "mind of their own!" They are not necessarily a poor choice, just not ruler perfect. In this case, plants with variance values of 1.0 or more were highlighted for great differences observed during the season. To be fair, there are many reasons for a lack of uniformity, most likely of which would simply be the result of our normal or extreme weather.

Seed and Plant Material Sources

Please get in touch with these companies if you have specific questions regarding individual species and cultivars.

Seed and Plant Material Sources

All-America Selections, 5201 Walnut Avenue, Suite 3, Downers Grove, IL 60515

Ball FloraPlant, 622 Town Road, West Chicago, IL 63185

Ball Ingenuity, P.O. Box 335, West Chicago, IL 60185

Comense, Ltd., 75 Spixworth Road, Old Catton, Norwich, Norfolk, NR6 7NQ, United Kingdom

Dümmen Orange, 15245 West Telegraph, Santa Paula, CA 93060

Ernst Benary of America, Inc, 2759 Wagner Court, Suite C, DeKalb, IL 60115-8609

Kieft-Pro-Seeds, P.O. Box 335, West Chicago, IL 60185

PanAmerican Seed, P.O. Box 335, West Chicago, IL 60185

Proven Winners, 1021 River Ridge Lane, Saint Thomas, MO 65076

Selecta First Class, P.O. Box 335, West Chicago, IL 60185