Along with the excitement of annual awards for movies, music, and plays, gardeners look forward to hearing about plant winners, too!

Different plant-related societies and associations name plants of the year and award winners. The honor is presented based on the plant’s garden performance across the country. Perennial Plant of the Year, Hosta of the Year, and Stout Silver Medal Award and Lenington All-American Award for daylilies, are popular plant honors.

The Perennial Plant Association annually names a plant that performs well throughout the United States. The 2020 Perennial Plant of the Year is Aralia cordata “Sun King.” A common name is Golden Japanese Spikenard. It grows in shade to partial shade. This herbaceous perennial certainly adds a bold texture to the garden through its size and color. It brightens the shade and certainly makes a statement in the flower border as a specimen plant and focal point.

“Sun King” grows quickly reaching 3 to 4 feet tall and wide. Older established plants are commonly reported as reaching 6 feet tall and wide during the season.

The foliage consists of compound leaves that are 3 feet long, with 3 to 7 leaflets that are about 6 inches long. This gives the plant a tropical feel. In the spring, the foliage emerges as a bright golden yellow on reddish-brown stems. If growing in a few hours of sun, the leaves tend to stay yellow. With more shade, the leaves appear to lean toward a chartreuse color. Either color is eye-catching.

This perennial is easy to grow. It prefers full sun and well-drained soil. The Missouri Botanical Garden reports that this plant may benefit from light shade in the afternoon if the growing location is hot and humid. Also, this cultivar is listed as tolerant of deer.

The American Hosta Growers Association chose “Dancing Queen” (Hosta “Dancing Queen”) as the 2020 Hosta of the Year. This perennial follows the theme of bright leaf colors. The unique leaf color for hosta of bright yellow stays from emergence throughout the season. The leaves have a tight wavy edge, adding interest to the plant.

The size of this hosta is medium to large and reaches 18 inches in height with a width of about 30 inches. “Dancing Queen” produces pale lavender flowers that appear in mid- to late summer. The flower scapes, which hang above the leaves, reach a height of 28 inches.

Hostas grow best in moist, well-drained soil. They prefer to grow in shade to part shade to keep the leaves from scorching and looking bad in the summer. Soil moisture is required to keep the leaves nice throughout the season.

Daylilies are also popular annuals. The 2020 daylily awards are named after the growing season in late summer to fall. The most recent Stout Silver Medal Award winner for 2019, named by the American Daylily Society, is ‘Scarlet Pimpernel (Hemerocallis ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’). This award is given to the best daylily overall.

‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ has several different flower characteristics. The 10-inch flower has a yellow-green throat in the middle of the flower, leading to yellow that transitions to royal garnet red. The flower form is unusual, with thin petals and sepals making it seem less massive than it would be with wider flower parts. The form is called crispate, which is described by the American Daylily Society as twisted, pinched, and quilled. It is certainly worth finding a photograph of this flower.

Even though the flowers only last for one day, a plant produces about 10 to 15 flower buds, filling it with color during the early midseason period of bloom. It is reported to bloom again during the season. The flower scape of ‘Scarlet Pimpernel’ reaches 24-36 inches in height.

The Lenington All-American Award for daylilies is presented to the best daylily performer over a wide geographic area. The 2019 winner is “Lil’ Black Buds” (Hemerocallis “Lil’ Black Buds”). This daylily has small 2.5 inch wide flowers that are black purple with a green throat. It blooms early and is reported to rebloom. The bud count during the flowering season is 21 to 25. This flower certainly stands out. The plant height with the flowers reaches 22 inches tall.

The Don C. Stevens Award, given to “Walter Kennedy,” is for daylilies with the most outstanding eyed or banded daylily. This one is 5.75 inches wide and blooms in midseason with a bud count of over 46. It has a green throat and red with a darker eye. The flower scape is about 28 inches tall.

Daylilies prefer full sun but can grow in partial shade. In partial shade, fewer flowers are produced. They are desirable for their beautiful bloom, low maintenance, green foliage, and tolerance to both poor soil and drought conditions.

For more information about plant honorees, contact the Daviess County Cooperative Extension Service at 270-685-8480.

Annette Meyer Heisdorffer is the Daviess County extension agent for horticulture. Her column runs weekly on the Home & Garden page in Lifestyle. Email her at


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