Finding the Best Plants for the Midwest

'Flutterby Yellow' Marguerite daisy is an Ecke introduction. The pastel yellow is a beautiful shade with the deeper center.

‘Flutterby Yellow’ Marguerite daisy is an Ecke introduction. The pastel yellow is a beautiful shade with the deeper center.

Each year, dozens—maybe hundreds—of new plant varieties are introduced by breeders and plant wholesalers worldwide. It’s tough to figure out which are the best plants for the Midwest, especially when our climate is as challenging and changing as it has been recently.

Fortunately, there are trial gardens, places where universities, botanical gardens, garden centers and wholesale nurseries test plants to see how they perform in real garden conditions. On Friday, I had a chance to attend the Plant Trial Day at Plant Peddlers, a wholesale nursery in Cresco, Iowa, just over the border from Minnesota. (Thanks to Northern Gardener contributor, plant breeder and all-around friend to horticulture, David Zlesak, for the invitation!) The event was mostly for garden center owners who buy plants from Plant Peddlers, who are concerned about how plants grow in greenhouses and other commercial questions. For me, it was a great chance to see the flowers in bloom and get a peek at some varieties that have not been introduced to the market yet. Everyone who attended the event was given three flags to pick their first, second and third favorite varieties. (My three picks are all in the photo gallery below.)

While visiting northeastern Iowa is always fun, you can see display gardens in the Twin Cities and around Minnesota, too. The University of Minnesota has a trial garden on its St. Paul campus and at the campus in Morris. The Minneapolis Parks and Rec department also has a trial garden at Lyndale Park and David told me that Malmborg’s Nursery and Garden Center has a lovely trial garden at its store in Brooklyn Park. I’m sure there are many more.

Here’s a gallery of some of my favorite plants from the Plant Peddlers trials.