When shopping for annual or perennial plants, you may see the word "hybrid" in plant descriptions. A hybrid is a cross between two plants; the two plants were crossed to create a new variety that has certain desirable characteristics. The characteristics may be a particular color, improved disease resistance or a different growth habit.
Several vegetable varieties are hybrids. Tomatoes (Solanum lycopersicum), for example, are available in hundreds of varieties, including the early-fruiting "Early Girl" and disease-resistant "Celebrity." Their improved disease resistance and higher fruiting yields are two of the main reasons to grow hybrid vegetables. This type of hybridization is available in a wide variety of annual vegetables, including peppers (Capsicum spp.) and cucumbers (Cucumis sativus).
Annual and Perennial Flowering Varieties
Many annual flowering plants are hybrids, bred to have distinctive colors or growth patterns. Hybrids of the sun-loving common geranium (Pelargonium x hortorum) offer different flower and foliage colors. Grown as annuals in all regions, it grows as a perennial in frost-free regions of U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 and 11. For example, "Black Velvet Rose" has dark chocolate-colored leaves, and "Showgirl" features rose-pink flowers. Petunias (Petunia x hybrida) have either a bushy or spreading growth pattern in full sun or partial shade. The petunia Wave hybrids, such as "Lavender Wave" and "Purple Wave," are designed to spread across the ground or cascade over their hanging baskets. Unlike other petunias, these hybrids do not need to be cut back after flowering.
Roses (Rosa spp.) are among the commonly hybridized perennial plants. The hybrid tea rose varieties are bred to have spectacular flowers, and the flowers are often fragrant. The "St. Patrick" hybrid tea rose (Rosa "St. Patrick"), hardy in USDA zones 6 through 9, has yellow blooms with green outer petals. The Francis Meilland hybrid tea rose (Rosa "Meitroni') has pink flowers and is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9. It is known for its disease resistance, which is important because hybrid roses are more susceptible than other rose species to black spot.
Many herbaceous, flowering perennials are hybridized as well. Sometimes these hybridizations are part of a series by the same grower. An example is the Winter Dreams Series Lenten roses, which include the hybrids "Cassis Red" (Helleborus x hybridus "Cassis Red") and "Picotee" (Helleborus x hybridus "Picotee"). They are hardy in USDA zones 3 through 9. Other hybrids, such as many varieties of daylily (Hemerocallis spp.), are standalone crosses. Hybrid daylilies include "Banana Boat" (Hemerocallis "Banana Boat"), which has ruffled, pale-yellow petals, and "Condilla" (Hemerocallis "Condilla"), which produces double golden-yellow flowers. Those two daylilies are hardy in USDA zones 3 through 10.