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Award Winning Perennials for MN Gardeners in 2020

As horticulture experts, we're always looking for new plants to talk about. And at this time of year when the national award winning perennials are announced, there's always a bit of excitement about it!

Four hardy perennials were recently awarded national recognition. All of these plants are hardy in USDA Zone 4 and one is hardy in Zone 3. The All-America Selections and Perennial Plant Association awards are compiled from many locations across the U.S.

Look for these new plants in garden centers next spring and enjoy their benefits in your garden.

How All-America Selection plants are judged

Since 1932 the All-America Selections program has trialed annual flowers and vegetables in numerous locations throughout the U. S. Winners are grown for one year and then awarded the coveted AAS selection.

An independent panel of judges put this year's plant contenders through their paces...and once the "AAS Winner" label goes on it, it's like a stamp of approval.

In 2016 the AAS started a perennial plant trial that runs for three years with overwintering/hardiness as part of the trial. The first two winners in this new perennial category were recently announced.

And the AAS 'Cold hardiness' Winners are...

Echinacea plant with red-orange flowers in a clay pot.

#1) Echinacea Sombrero® ‘Baja Burgundy’

This new selection of coneflower grows 18-20 inches in height. It has many branches, and prolific flowers from summer into fall, according to the judges.
Some key features:
  • Grows best in full sun and well-drained soil.
  • Attracts butterflies, birds.
  • Deer resistant.

#2) Rudbeckia x ‘American Gold Rush’

Bright yellow flowers with dark centers.

Rudbeckia x ‘American Gold Rush’ is a new hybrid that is 20-24 inches tall and notably resistant to Septoria leaf spot, which has defoliated many other Rudbeckias, especially ‘Goldsturm’.

Some award-winning features:

  • Flowers from mid summer until frost.
  • Grows best in full sun and well-drained soil.
  • Avoid getting the foliage wet.
‘American Gold Rush’ is hardy in USDA Zone 4.

Proven Winners Perennial Plant of the Year

Long stems with short leaves and purple spikes of flowers.

Proven Winners has selected Perovskia atriplicifolia ‘Denim ‘n Lace’ as their 2020 national perennial plant of the year.

Perovskia atriplicifolia'Denim 'n Lace'

Unlike most Russian sage, this cultivar is shorter and upright, 28-32 inches tall and 34-38 inches wide; hardy to zone 4.

Here are its key features:
  • Blooms mid summer through fall.
  • Once established is drought tolerant.
  • Attracts hummingbirds and native bees.
  • Deer resistant.

Perennial Plant Association Plant of the Year

The Perennial Plant Association has selected Aralia cordata ‘Sun King’ as the 2020 perennial plant of the year.

Aralia cordata 'Sun King'

Green leaves with greenish-yellow small, star-shaped flowers on red stems.

This dependable perennial is a large plant, up to 6 feet tall and nearly as wide; vigorous and tough with chartreuse foliage that is a highlight with other perennials.

Shade loving! We need more large plants for the shade and this plant lives up to its hype.

PPA members vote for this plant, so it has to be approved across the U.S. Here are its attributes:
  • No reseeding or suckering. 
  • Hardy to Zone 3.
  • Bees love the flowers. 
  • Deer resistant. 
  • And the foliage dies with frost. 
Enjoy learning about these new plants!

Author: Mary H. Meyer, Extension Horticulturist and Professor



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