Spotting Plant Trends At Spring Trials [Opinion]

Robin Siktberg

It’s easy to get lost among the dozens of new geraniums, baskets of calibrachoas and verbenas and hundreds of petunias, coleus, alyssums, gerberas, mums and more at Spring Trials. By the time I got to the last stop, it was beginning to blend together into one big calipetunigerbamum.

But in all seriousness, it was so impressive to see the outstanding genetics and beautifully grown plants, all presented by breeders who are genuinely passionate about the plants they offer. By the end of the trip, however,
some trends had become apparent among the plethora of
new plants.

First, there were more edibles than ever, with breeders telling me they plan to keep increasing the category. Some were bringing in genetics from their food production divisions to make the plants or seeds available to the home market for the first time. Others were developing plants specifically for small-space gardening, designed to be compatible with patio culture, with ornamental qualities as well. There’s room for both types in the ever-increasing market for locally grown food.

Another trend, a personal favorite, was the number of variably variegated flowers — primarily in the petunia category. In the past, these plants might have been discarded for their lack of uniformity, but I’m glad to see this is no longer the case. Consumers are looking for the unique and different; the unpredictability of each flower being different from the other will surely have appeal.
Bicolor flowers in general were very popular, with several companies telling us that their consumer research is showing a consumer preference for bicolors. I have to say, I am one of them — I found myself drawn to the bicolors everywhere I stopped.

Lastly, there was an obvious awareness that it is more important than ever to make purchasing plants less intimidating for consumers. MasterTag’s People’s Choice POP display and PanAmerican’s Think Outside the Pack programs both aim to make consumers more comfortable with their plant purchasing decisions. (See page 49 for more on these programs.) And mixed combinations were everywhere. From large patio containers to hanging basket combos to retail displays that encourage novice gardeners to create combinations from a pre-selected group of plants, breeders wereaiming to alleviate consumers’ fear of failure and
help them make decisions about what plants they like.

However, after seeing all the new plants at Trials, when I go plant shopping next spring, the decision will be easy for me. I’ll have one calipetunigerbamum, please.

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