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Plant Palette Trends for 2023

Article is brought to you by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP)

2023 marks a new year and a fresh slate for new and old varieties of plants to rise in popularity. Suppliers weigh in on what they are seeing in high demand as well as what color schemes they predict will be trending with consumers.

Plants in High Demand

Trees, specifically evergreens, are still in high demand and short supply, as they have longer production life cycles compared to annuals, perennials and other shrubs.

“We also see really strong demand for tree forms of hydrangeas, rose of Sharon, and some other flowering shrubs,” says Jane Beggs-Joles, landscape market coordinator for Proven Winners, based in Dekalb, Illinois. “They’re a great design element, so if you anticipate using them for a project it’s a good idea to let your supplier know as soon as possible.”

Limelight Prime hydrangea Photo: Proven Winners

Beggs-Joles says hydrangeas also remain a prevailing plant of choice. Alec Charais, chief marketing & product development officer for Bailey Nurseries, based in St. Paul, Minnesota, adds hydrangeas continue to be used in new ways.

“The world of hydrangeas continues to amaze as there are literally countless varieties of every shape, size, type, and color to satisfy the needs of the designer and the homeowner,” Charais says. “I am always eager to see designers try these new innovations like Little Hottie® panicle hydrangea from First Editions® as it represents so many improvements over older varieties that may traditionally be used.”

Beggs-Joles notes that while flowering shrubs should be in good supply this year, you need to look sooner rather than later if you want a larger specimen. “Plants larger than a five-gallon may be tricky to source, so I suggest talking to the designer or client in advance to get some direction on using smaller sizes, if necessary,” she says.

Alan Jones, president of Manor View Farms, based in Monkton, Maryland, says they are expecting plant material shortages for next year, particularly with the larger-sized dogwoods, Carpinus, redbud, Thuja Green Giant, Japanese maples, and magnolias.

Timothy Schipper, owner of Colorblends Wholesale Flowerbulbs, based in Bridgeport, Connecticut, says they have had difficulty sourcing some daffodil varieties.

First Editions Little Hottie hydrangea Photo: Bailey Nurseries

When it comes to popular plant traits, as always, low-maintenance varieties remain strong. Plants that are deer-resistant, long-blooming, pollinator-friendly or dwarf sized are also in demand. “The pollinator trend seems to be gaining stronger momentum every year,” Schipper says. “There’s a growing awareness and desire for plants that support wildlife and beneficial insects that are also low maintenance and thrive without the need for chemical support.”

Charais says as the climate continues to change, it will drive the need for more drought-tolerant plants. “It is such an opportunity for all of us in horticulture no matter what part you play,” Charais says. “Breeders must and are working on more and more drought-tolerant genetics for the retail and landscape markets. Conversely, well-orchestrated landscape design can play a huge role in helping the industry push this to the marketplace.”

Landscape Styles

According to Charais, around 16 to 24 million new gardeners were gained during the pandemic. As homeowners continue to invest in their outdoor spaces so they are both beautiful and functional, he predicts more will seek landscape styles that suit them. “This means, for some, a very straightforward design that focuses on relaxation; for others who really like the idea of that veggie garden, designing spaces where they can foodscape and intermingle plantings of easy-to-grow edible plants amongst their annual, perennial, or shrub border,” Charais says. “I guess ultimately what I am saying is utilitarian and functional because they are looking to stretch their dollars as far as they can.”

Schipper notes that informal and naturalistic gardens, like The Highline and The Battery in New York City, are also becoming more popular as part of the pollinator trend. “Cottage styles in smaller spaces, and meadow styles where space is abundant, fit into this category, again, with supporting wildlife and the environment in mind,” Schipper says.

Color Schemes

First Editions Shadow Magic crape myrtle has blooms similar to Pantone’s 2023 Color the Year. Photo: Bailey Nurseries

Beggs-Joles says of their top ten sellers, five plants have green or white flowers, with the next most popular color choice being pink. This coincides with Pantone’s Color of the Year being Viva Magenta for 2023. This shade’s organic origins come from the cochineal beetle, which produces the brightest natural dye.

“There are a lot of great plants that mimic that color range in our industry, such as Shadow Magic™ crape myrtle from First Editions®,” Charais says. “And there are a ton of red leaf foliage shrubs and perennials that also fit the bill.”

Schipper says they see a trend for cool, pastel schemes in the summer, but vibrant colors are the most desirable in their market after a long, gray winter.

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