Master Gardeners throughout South Dakota were invited to share names of flowers and vegetables they chose as “standouts” they grew this past season. Thanks to Master Gardeners for sharing their standouts and for commenting about plants they found to perform the best in their South Dakota locale. Their Master Gardener organization is also named. See plant topics and South Dakota Master Gardener training information at


Zinnias: Tammy Zulk said that zinnias bring color and butterflies almost all summer long until frost and are very durable for South Dakota weather. Canova. Canova Memorial Garden.

Butternut Squash ‘Bon Bon’: Marla Huse said her askutasquash, a Native American name for squash, thrived even with lack of rain and consecutive hot days. She said the taste is unparalleled. She plans a grade school class presentation at which she will serve squash soup. Sully County. Prairie Potters.

Purple Top Rutabaga: Mary Wommer said that this heirloom rutababa is sweet tasting and performs despite cabbage looper pressure this season. Sisseton. Member at large.

‘Big Beef’ Tomato: Ernie Wright said that this cultivar produced large, healthy plants that seemed to have some resistance to blight. Tomatoes were many large, well-formed, good-tasing tomatoes. Wright is a master gardener from Watertown and president of the South Dakota Horticultural Society.

Mexican Torch Sunflower (Tithonia rotundifolia): Shirley Masteller said that Mexican Torch Sunflowers produce attractive flowers that butterflies like. She also likes their color. The sunflower continued to produce after hail in late July. Member at large.

Thalictrum or Meadow Rue: Tom Thorson and Rob Simon said that Thalictrum, members of the buttercup family, add texture to other plants and are features themselves. They survived by letting hail pass through airy leaves. A sun and shade plant, they are mostly drought tolerant. The only species of all of those listed below that have spread is T.ichangense, which made a ground cover. The only that has produced volunteers is T. rochebrunianum. Their collection of best performers contains: Thalictrum rochebrunianum, T. aqueligefolium ‘Black Stockings,’ T. delavii, T. elin, T. splendide, T. ichangense and T. flavum. This was a brutal growing season for them with severe early heat and no rain, and then rain with hail. Blister beetles and slugs were a problem, as were deer, even with liquid repellent from master gardener class. Still the Thalictrums continued to do well. Hill City. Rapid City Master Gardeners.

Impatiens langulosa: Tom Thorson and Rob Simon said that Impatiens langulosa is an annual with cornucopia-like flowers that bees love. It grows to 4 feet tall and blooms in late summer from seed. Seeds become volunteers next year and can be invasive there if not given a designated area. Seedlings are easy to pull up if weeding them out. The plants accommodate hail with little damage. Black Hills has a native Impatiens capensis also, which is of smaller scale but with orange flowers. They said they are both natural antidotes for poison ivy. Hill City. Rapid City Master Gardeners.

Lantana: Lea Gustad said that her favorite is Lantana, an annual in our region. It comes in various colors, including combinations of red and gold, pink and gold and orange. She planted all these combination colors in large pots and barrels along with ornamental grass, geraniums and ice plant. She even put Lantana in her flowerbeds. It flourished everywhere. Lantana is a full sun plant. It tolerates hot and dry conditions well. She waters hers regularly and they bloom profusely all summer. Wakonda. Pasque Garden Club.

Zinnias from seed: Elaine Fritz said that she decided to grow a “zinnia only” bed, as a friend has done, and is delighted with the result. She chose a weedy, ugly, abandoned parking lot by her studio and built a raised bed from a kit like they use at Brookings Community Gardens. She figured how much soil she needed for the bed. She planted an all-in-one zinnia mixture. Once they appeared, she mulched seedlings with recycled shopper newspapers and soaked the mulch well. She stuck her finger into soil to test for wetness to not over or under water plants, and they grew quickly. Zinnias didn’t have white powdery mildew or Alternaria brown spots. The patch was covered with bees and butterflies. She plans to add other beds. Baltic. Brookings Area Master Gardeners.

Castor bean from saved seed: Lois Quatier said that she grew a castor bean plant from last year’s saved seed. She’s never grown a plant so tall; taller than the garage. Yankton. Town and Country Garden Club.

Amish Golden Slicer Tomato: Noma Sazama said that the Amish Golden Slicer tomato is an heirloom plant that produced many large, flavorful tomatoes. South Central Master Garden Club.

Rosa ‘Never Alone’: Christine Larson said that the Canadian rose Rosa ‘Never Alone’ is quite disease resistant. It has dark foliage and flowers heavily. Aberdeen. Prairie Partners Master Gardeners.

Blacktail Mountain Watermelon: Barbara Kuhlman said that she has grown these heirloom watermelons for two years successfully and harvested ten melons from two plants. She looked for a watermelon that fits a short, cool climate. She said they may not stack up to a hybrid in weight but she likes a smaller melon. Uniformity may be an issue, she said, when one plant only yielded pink interiors. Happy seed spitting! Spearfish. Northern Hills Master Gardeners.

‘Arizona Sun’ Gaillardia or Blanket Flower: Dianne Rider said that this cultivar of native Gaillardia perennial bloomed from early summer into fall and grew to about twelve inches tall the first season. It’s a new plant to her; she hopes it comes back. Hazel (near Watertown). Prairie Coteau Master Gardeners.

Persicaria amplexicaulis ‘Golden arrow’ or Fleece Flower: Rhonda Jensen said that this perennial has great color contrast with golden green leaves and bright red flowers. It grows well with minimal fuss. Larchwood, Iowa. Member at large.

Georgia Jet Sweet Potatoes: Kathy Jorgensen planted her early maturing sweet potatoes the week before Memorial Day. She covered the soil with black landscape fabric because these plants require warm soil to grow. She cut “X’s” in the fabric and marked the plant with a flag. (Vines make it hard to find plants to harvest the sweet potatoes.) This was a good harvest year; five, 5-gallon buckets from seven plants. She said that some sweet potatoes had curved shapes like sea animals, possibly due to clay soil. After digging them, she scrubbed off the soil and placed them in an area of about 85 + degrees F for four-five days to “cure” the potatoes. She said they form another skin and become sweeter from the process. Gayville (between Yankton and Vermillion). Missouri Valley Master Gardeners.

Big Beef Tomato (Indeterminate): Curt Pressler of O’Henry Garden said that the Big Beef open-pollinated tomatoes mature in 70 days, with great yields. He said the plants stay strong until frost and he plants them every year for the farmers market. Watertown. Coteau Prairie Master Gardeners.

Dwarf Purple Heart Tomato: Shelly Wilson said that the Dwarf Purple Heart tomato (open-pollinated cross) had vines that did not get large but she got lots of fruit. She had no problem with blight and the tomatoes tasted good. Huron. Huron Area Master Gardeners.

Amish Golden Slicer Tomato (Heirloom): Noma Sazama said that the tomatoes were large and had very good flavor. Amish Golden Slicer tomato plants yielded well. South of Mission. South Central Master Gardeners.

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