Everyone wants their flowers to look great with minimal care. But how do we specifically judge what distinguishes a flower from average to WOW?  Two main qualities: vigor and floriferousness. Vigor The basic traits of vigor are how fast and strong the plants grow and how much substance t [...]

Everyone wants their flowers to look great with minimal care. But how do we specifically judge what distinguishes a flower from average to WOW?  Two main qualities: vigor and floriferousness.

Vigor
The basic traits of vigor are how fast and strong the plants grow and how much substance they have.  Are they healthy and resistant to disease and insects? Are they well-branched and have they filled in their plot in the flower trial nicely? Vigor should not be confused with size; small plants can certainly be vigorous and large plants can have lackluster vigor.
Look at the example below. We have two different cultivars of Cleome grown next to each other in the flower trials, so they experienced the same growing conditions. The one on the left has weaker growth and less branching, while the plants on the right are full and healthy - you can't even see the ground in the middle of the plot! It is a clear choice that Cleome 'Senorita Rosalita' has better vigor and it has been a favorite on the Prairie Star list for years.   
Cleome 'Spirit Violeta' Cleome 'Senorita Rosalita' Floriferousness (flor·if·er·ous·ness) Most folks know what vigor is, but floriferousness isn't a word you hear every day.  It refers to the overall visual impact of the flower display.  The number and size of flowers, and how they are borne on the plant all impact floriferousness.  Flowers that hang down toward the ground so you see their "backside" are not as desirable as ones that are borne in profile and viewed from the side.  The most floriferous of flowers are those that are held by the plant so that they look up and smile at you.  When we plant annuals we're looking for color, maximum visual impact - so if you can't see the flower, why bother?

Here is another example from the K-State flower trials.  First is a plot of Tecoma that definitely has good vigor. The plants are healthy, thick and have lots of flowers.  However, the beautiful yellow flowers are mostly lost in that healthy green foliage and not as noticeable as we would like them to be.  The flowers also point either straight out or down, further reducing their visibility.
Tecoma 'Mayan Gold'
Now compare that to the petunias below. These plants hold their flowers up over the foliage, so that the foliage is hardly visible and all we see is color. This is the sort of thing we look for when rating flowers to go on the Prairie Star list.     Floriferousness = WOW !!!  Look at all that color.  Isn't that why we plant annual flowers?
Mix of Petunia 'Supertunia Vista Pink Bubblegum, Fuchsia, and Silverberry'