General Trial Information

Evaluation of Plant Performance

Trials are submitted by private breeding companies, All American Selections, and Fleuroselect. Companies have the choice of testing in containers or in the ground. Performance of each plant in the trials is evaluated bi-weekly by staff on vigor, uniformity, and ornamental value - flowers and/or foliage depending on the plant. We also take note of susceptibility to diseases and insects, and tolerance to changes in climatic conditions when appropriate. Plant performance depends on a number of factors including genetics, soil and weather conditions. A summary of this evaluation information is published in the fall as a booklet for the participating companies and posted on the web for professionals and the general gardening public.

Many Different Types of Plants are Trialed

Traditionally, annual and tender perennial plants grown for a single season have been the primary focus of the plant trials. Most of these trials are conducted in the “formal” gardens to the west of the Plant and Soil Science Building. Recently, we have begun to include more vegetables, herbaceous perennials, and even native plants as we expand the scope of our trialing process. These exciting new additions were included expand the value of these trials to an even larger gardening audience. The vegetables have been moved to our new Vegetable Demonstration Garden which is just south of the rose gardens (see maps). The native plant trials are located in beds just to the east of the Food Safety and Toxicology Building.

The Process of Plant Trialing

Seeds or young plants are sent in the early spring. Plants are then grown in our MSU greenhouses and transplanted into ground beds or containers after the last frost; typically late May or early June.

Companies are given the choice of whether they would prefer their plants to be grown in ground beds or in 22” containers - in some cases both are tested. In the ground beds, plants are typically planted at 8” to 12” spacing depending on the species with at least 24 plants per trial entry. Due to space restraints, fewer plants were used of each native plant and vegetable entry. Note that some entries perform remarkably better in containers than in the ground.

Funding of the Plant Trials

Funding to support our trials come mostly from Plant breeding companies, Michigan Greenhouse Growers and Nurseries, and Garden-sponsored events. We are looking for additional sponsors as we continue to expand the scope and nature of our trial gardens.

The Garden Staff

The Trials are managed by Daedre McGrath and are under the direction of Dr. Art Cameron, Professor of Horticulture and MSU Horticulture Garden Director. They are maintained by a dedicated staff housed in the Horticulture Department. Our summer interns in the Annual Trial Gardens are Paul Klein and Tom Charney.

Thank you for visiting the MSU Horticulture Gardens!

Daedre McGrath - Annual Trial Garden Manager
Art Cameron - MSU Horticulture Garden Director