Summer Reds for Your Canada Day Garden


To celebrate both Canada Day and the Year of the Garden, I’ve selected a selection of red flowers from the AAS (All-America Selections) list of all-time winners.

These plants were tested in test gardens across North America and winners were chosen based on their superior performance. Here in southern Ontario, William Dam Seeds Ltd. in Dundas, Royal Botanical Garden in Burlington and Shell Park in Oakville host AAS trial gardens.

Tube-shaped red flowers, such as penstemon and salvia, are magnets for hummingbirds, while red flowers in general attract many pollinators.

Red Arabesque Penstemon

Everything about Penstemon Arabesque Red (2014 AAS winner) makes it essential for your garden. This exciting hybrid offers superior garden vigor and flowering. Its beautiful large bi-coloured red and white campanulate flowers adorn well-branched plants that attract both hummingbirds and butterflies all summer long. Plant Arabesque in full sun in the landscape adding height in the middle of the bed or in containers. Remove spent flowers to encourage continued flowering. Rabbit resistant, but not reliable, mulching during the winter may help

Echinacea Sombrero Baja Burgundy

2020 AAS Herbaceous Perennial Winner

Sombrero Baja Burgundy will add a bold touch to sunny gardens with its vibrant deep purple red flowers. The beautiful flower color is unrivaled among coneflowers and is perfect for cut flowers. After being tested through three harsh winters, AAS judges noted the hardiness, robust branching and floriferous flowering of this remarkable plant. Birds and pollinators certainly flock to this deer-resistant beauty, making it a dual-purpose plant. Gardeners will appreciate the prolific blooms from mid-summer until the first frosts. Full sun to partial sun 45-60 cm in height.

Geranium Calliope Medium Dark Red

With an exceptional dark red velvety flower color and great branching habit, Calliope was unmatched in AAS trials compared to other varieties on the market. This 2017 AAS winner has mounding, semi-spreading growth with strong stems supporting flower heads laden with dark red blooms. These plants work great in containers, combination plantings, hanging baskets as well as in an in-ground landscape. Gardeners will enjoy exceptional landscape performance under normal conditions as well as more severe high heat and drought conditions.

Salvia Summer Jewel Red

This 2011 AAS winning bedding plant has consistently been rated “superior” or “above average” by AAS judges due to its early, bountiful blooms, which continue from spring through fall. Additionally, each dwarf, densely branching plant stays at a tidy 50cm height, even when fully mature. The bright red flower spikes are topped with 1.25cm blooms, making it perfect for the bird lover’s garden where the bright red color acts as a magnet for hummingbirds. As a bonus, goldfinches swarm the plant for seeds. Even the leaves add beauty with their finer textured dark green color.

Summer Jewel Red, just 50 days from seedling to first flower, is about two weeks earlier than comparisons. Expect long-lasting performance and superior holding power in wind and rain. This annual is ideal for full-sun containers, mixed beds and borders where uniformity is desired.

Zinnia Holi Scarlet

This beautiful 2019 AAS winner is named after the famous Holi Festival of Colors because of its vibrant color! AAS judges rated it an ‘Excellent Flower’ due to the brilliant solid color, size and number of flowers and disease resistance, which was superior to comparisons . Holi Scarlet will continue to produce fresh, colorful blooms throughout the season, even in heat, humidity and drought. Uniform, compact mound plants will make a superb mass planting of brightly colored dark red flowers that attract both people and pollinators. I have grown Holi Scarlet Zinnias for the past few years, they never fail to impress and are easy to grow from seed.

Main Street Coleus Beale Street

The very first coleus to be named an AAS winner! Main Street Beale Street coleus (AAS winner 2020) is an exceptional variety with dark red foliage that retains its color extremely well in the garden. The rich color won’t fade, bleach or become mottled as the season progresses into late summer. The lush, bushy plant grows evenly and, as a bonus, doesn’t flower until very late in the season, up to six weeks later than comparisons! A unique feature of this coleus is that it can be successfully grown in full sun to full shade, making it an ideal foliage item for anywhere in the garden. Owners will all appreciate the beautiful color and uniform height of this coleus.

Theresa Forte is a Niagara-based gardener, photographer, and speaker. Join her at


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