Even in the world of gardening, it’s important to stay ahead of the curve. And to do so, one need look no further than Kathy Jentz. As editor and publisher of Washington Gardener Magazine, her depth of plant knowledge is incredible. Recently I attended her talk on the biggest plant trends for 2021 during which she highlighted some key things to look out for this spring.
SIMPLIFICATION IS KEY
These days, the overriding theme is simplification. Unless you’re up for the task, who wants to buy a plant that needs weekly spraying or constant pruning to keep it in bounds? Jentz says consumers want their plants to bloom longer, have greater disease resistance and be able to stand up to drought and other factors due to climate change. And growers are rising to the challenge.
Indeed, growers are answering the call by engaging in greater hybridization to propagate desirable characteristics such as color, size and vigor. Here are four plant trends Jentz says are rocking today’s industry.
TINY PLANT TREND
Plants are scaling down – think dwarf evergreens, smaller shrubs, and more compact and manageable perennial species. Not only are these new hybrids better suited for smaller gardens, but they also require less maintenance while flowering longer. (And for growers, they look better on the shelves.) Teeny tiny houseplants like terrariums plants and tiny succulents are also gaining in popularity.
Teeny tiny cacti getting ready for market
DAY LENGTH NEUTRAL PLANTS
Day length neutral (D/L) refers to plants that flower independent of day length. In other words, unlike short-day plants that flower in spring and long-day plants that flower in summer, these plants will flower all season long. That means that if you want to grow sunflowers in early spring or late fall when days are shorter, all you need to do is choose a day length neutral variety.
D/L neutral sunflowers extend the growing season
These days, you can’t be too sure of the environment. So growers are responding by introducing plants that exhibit higher degrees of drought tolerance and disease resistance. Some varieties have even been bred to stand up to wind, wet weather and road salt, providing more options for the home gardener.
Many new monarda hybrids exhibit greater disease resistance
NEW BRANDING OF FRUITS AND VEGGIES
For those of us who dislike having to cut up an entire melon to consume only a few pieces, say hello to personal snack-able fruits and veggies. Helo Clementines and Hello Melon are two great examples of this 2021 plant trend. Personal-sized fruits and veggies make it easier for consumers to eat healthy food with less wastage. Now you really can have your melon and eat it too.
Hello Melon’s small size makes snacking easy
TEN TRENDING PLANTS FOR 2021
Ready to make your list? Here are some trending plants Jentz profiled for 2021 that I’ll be looking for at the nursery.
Whispurr Pink Nepeta – This soft pink hybrid is a little bit taller than ‘Walker’s Low’ and it blooms all summer.
Whispurr Pink Nepeta/Photo: darwinperennials.com
Panicum virgatum ‘Purple Tears’ – An introduction from Pete Oudolf who discovered this native species in a nursery plot in the Netherlands, ‘Purple Tears’ switchgrass produces soft gray flowering spikes followed by striking purple seed heads. Narrow and upright, it grows to about 4′. Available through Hoffman Nursery of North Carolina.
Purple Tears switchgrass/Photo: Hoffman Nursery
Begonia Lunar Lights ‘Silver Moon’ – Forest green leaves flecked with silver and mint green make this perennial a stand-out in the shade garden. Available through Plants Nouveau.
Begonia Lunar Light ‘Silver Moon’/Photo: Plants Nouveau
Swan Queen Gardenia – Bred to be hardy in our region (Zone 7), this variety with glossy evergreen leaves and double white blooms can stay outdoors all winter. It also is resistant to white fly and other diseases that usually affect this plant. Available through most area nurseries.
Swan Queen Gardenia/Photo: monrovia.com
Brunnera ‘Alexandria’ – Not to be confused with the green and white variety ‘Alexander the Great’, ‘Alexandria’ looks like a silver mirror in the garden and has the biggest leaves yet of the species. Tiny clusters of sky-blue flowers float above the iridescent foliage in early spring.
Brunnera ‘Alexandria’/Photo: monrovia.com
Forsythia ‘Believe it or Not’ is a one-of-a kind variety developed from a plant found at McCorkle Nurseries Inc in Dearing, Georgia. In addition to golden flowers, it has variegated gold foliage which means you can enjoy yellow color from spring until fall. A mid-sized shrub that thrives in sun to part shade from the Gardener’s Confidence Collection.
Yellow leaves of Forsythia Believe It Or Not/Photo: The Gardener’s Confidence Collection
Celosia Kelos ‘Candela Pink’ – If you like things hot, this plant is for you. The 2021 All-America Selections (AAS) Flower Winner, its bright pink blooms prompted one judge to name it the ‘Energizer Bunny.’ This selection is bred to keep its color all season long and it also makes an excellent dried flower.
Celosia Kelos ‘Candela Pink’/Photo: all-americaselections.org
Ready-To-Grow Clematis – Clematis has a reputation for being difficult. But these new varieties introduced by Spring Hill Nursery are out to change that opinion. Their stronger root systems reduce transplant shock; they can be popped right into the ground. And they offer improved flower production. Check out ‘Chloe’, a non-vining bush-like variety with purple-blue flowers.
Clematis ‘Chloé’ available through Spring Hill Nursery
Coleus Main Street Beale Street – A spectacular new variety that holds its deep red color all season long, this coleus won’t fade or bleach over the summer. It forms a compact 2 ½’ x 3’ ball, and since its flowers don’t appear until very late in the season, there’s no need to deadhead. Available through Premier Growers Inc.
Coleus Main Street Beale Street/Photo: premiergrowersinc.com
Petite Knock Out Rose – This variety is the first-ever miniature version of the popular Knock Out Rose series. Topping out at just 18″ tall, it exhibits the same flower power and easy care as the rest of the species.
Petite Knock Out Rose/Photo: knockoutroses.com
Marigold Big Duck Yellow – Huge, double-flower balls make this semi-dwarf variety a stand-out. Also available in orange, Big Ducks spread like a carpet and are extremely heat tolerant. Available through ameriseed.net.
Big Duck Yellow/Photo: ameriseed.net
Poppy ‘Amazing Grey’ – This showstopper has lavender grey tissue paper-like petals with a pinky-red center. Some flowers also have a white edge. En masse, the double and single blooms look like grey clouds hovering in the garden. Available through Wild Seed Farms.
Amazing Grey Poppy/Photo: wildseedfarms.com
Author’s note: All links to seed and plant purveyors are unpaid and reflect only my recommendations.
Cover photo of Clematis florida Alba Plena courtesy shutterstock.com.