New Plants & Trends For 2024

Refresh customer landscapes with stunning new plant varieties and most-wanted ideas.

By Christine Menapace
From the February 2024 Issue


It’s always a bit amazing to see the many new plant varieties introduced each year. Like a kid in a candy store, I eagerly await Spring nursery visits. They’re such a feast for the eyes and there’s a palpable excitement when you encounter an old favorite in a great new size or a pest vulnerable staple in a now-resistant strain.

Trends From Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS)

Luckily, in my area, those starving for the sights of landscapes in full bloom can attend the Philadelphia Flower Show. Held by the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society (PHS) in late Winter/early Spring — the 2024 event is being held March 2-10—the Show is the nation’s largest and longest-running horticultural event. As such PHS’s Vice President of Horticulture, Andrew Bunting, is a well-placed observer of landscape and garden trends, and he recently released his 2024 predictions. “These 2024 gardening trends are based on what we have seen by attending conferences, exhibitions, visiting countless personal and public gardens, and conversations with professionals,” says Bunting. While many trends relate to environmental issues (to be covered in Turf’s April edition on Sustainability), he also spoke to several plant trends — and better yet, backed up his insights with specific recommendations.

Here’s what Bunting expects in 2024:

1. Using substitutes for boxwoods. Boxwood blight is an ongoing fungal issue and is hard to control since it spreads quickly. Many boxwoods are dying or being compromised. Because of this, many are starting to think about alternative options for low maintenance and year-round appeal. Bunting says some great substitutions include alternate evergreens such as inkberry hollies, (Ilex glabra) Strongbox® (pictured below), Gem Box®, and Squeeze Box® all from Proven Winners and all hardy in USDA Zones 5-9.

Additionally, boxwoods that are bred to be resistant to blight are being promoted by Better Boxwood® such as Skylight™, Renaissance™, Heritage™, and Babylon Beauty™, all are hardy in Zones 5-9.

Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Sandhill’
Schizachyrium scoparium ‘Sandhill’ (Photo: Intrinsic Perennials)

2. Planting more grasses and sedges. Grasses and sedges continue to be popular garden plants, playing important ornamental and ecological roles in the garden. The use of these plants has been popularized by famed garden designers such as Piet Oudolf, Claudia West, Kelly Norris, Roy Diblick, Jeff Epping and many others, says Bunting, pushing grasses and sedges to the forefront of design instead of being just filler. While ornamental grasses have been popular for nearly three decades their prominent usage has grown as a critical component in native plant and pollinator gardens.

Some top performing sedges include Wood’s sedge (Carex woodii) Zones 4-8; Cherokee sedge, (Carex cherokeenis) Zones 6-9; common brome sedge (Carex bromoides) Zones 4-8; white-tinge sedge (Carex albicans ) Zones 4-8; and the ever popular Pennsylvania sedge (Carex pensylvanica) Zones 3-8. Some new grasses from famed grass hybridizer Brent Horvath at Intrinsic Perennials include two selections each of little bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) ‘Little Red’ and ‘Sandhill’ (pictured above); and big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) ‘Blackhawks’ (pictured below) and ‘Holy Smoke.’ Bluestems are hardy in Zones 3-9.

plant varieties
Strongbox® inkberry holly
Hydrangea Eclipse®
plant varieties
Big bluestem ‘Blackhawks’, Photo Credit: Intrinsic Perennials
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Impatiens Interspecific Solarscape® XL Pink Jewel (Photos courtesy of National Garden Bureau)



3. Hydrangea popularity will continue. Beloved for their mops of colorful, long blooming flowers in many shapes, hydrangeas will continue their dominance. Growers are responding by introducing several new varieties that emphasize stunning color variations and the ability to find a hydrangea for any garden space. Bailey Nursery’s First Editions® Hydrangea macrophylla Eclipse®, Zones 5-9, (pictured above) features purple-black foliage and contrasting pink flowers. From Star® Roses and Plants, Hydrangea paniculata Sweet Starlight™, Zones 4-8 (pictured below) is a new compact selection for small gardens or containers.

4. Incorporating a taste of the tropics. While annuals in certain zones, tropical plants are popular in landscapes for their large and luxuriant foliage and vibrant splashes of color. There continues to be many great tropical plants coming to garden centers.

Tropical introductions include two new elephant ears (Colocasia esculenta) Redemption™ and Pharaoh’s Mask™, Zones 7-10, from Plants Nouveau®. There are new bold foliaged begonias with great leaf patterns including the line of Jurassic rex begonias, Begonia rex Curly™, and the Shadow King® series. (Begonias are generally hardy in Zones 9-10; but are a popular annual for overwintering indoors.) The Hollywood® Hibiscus, Zones 9-11; Sun Parasol® Mandevilla, Zones 10-11; and Canna Cannova®, Zones 7-10, in Red Golden Flame and Bronze Peach are also great new tropical plant introductions.

5. Growing fruit in a home landscape. As a fun and lower maintenance alternative to growing vegetables, growing fruit at home has gained popularity. For those with yard space, Asian persimmon trees (Diospyros kaki), Zones 7-11, in the ‘Saijo’ or ‘Fuyu’ varieties are popular. The native persimmon tree (Diospyros virginiana), Zones 4-11, and the native pawpaw tree (Asimina trilob), Zones 4-9, have been gaining in popularity as alternatives to the more traditional pear, apple, and peach trees.

For container fruit gardening, new options include high producing, compact, ornamental, and self-pollinating plants such as Bushel and Berry® blueberries, Zones 6-10; the Fignomenal® dwarf figs, Zones 7-9; and Sweet Kiss™ strawberries, Zones 4-9; some say 5-8.

Celosia Burning Embers
plant varieties, Geranium Interspecific Big EEZE Pink Batik
Geranium Interspecific Big EEZE Pink Batik
plant varieties, Marigold
Marigold Siam Gold  (Photos courtesy of National Garden Bureau)

AAS Award Winners

Profiled in previous editions of Turf, All-America Selections (AAS) is North America’s most well-known and respected non-profit plant trialing organization. AAS plants are trialed throughout North America by professional, independent, volunteer judges who grow new, never-before-sold entries next to comparisons considered best-in-class. Those entries that have superior garden performance, considered better than the comparisons, are granted AAS award designations.

Here are six new annual AAS Winners available for 2024:

  • Celosia Burning Embers (pictured above)
  • Geranium Interspecific Big EEZE Pink Batik (pictured above)
  • Impatiens Interspecific Solarscape® XL Pink Jewel (pictured above)
  • Petchoa EnViva™ Pink (pictured below)
  • Marigold Siam Gold (pictured above)
  • Petunia SureShot White (Regional Winner)

Planning a client vegetable garden? Or mixing in showy edibles with annuals? AAS Winners also included: Broccoli Purple Magic F1, Pepper Red Impact F1, and Broccoli Skytree F1 (Regional Winner.)

AAS Winners are grown in nearly 200 public AAS Display and Introduction Gardens across North America. Visit here to find a garden near you.

plant varieties
Petchoa EnViva™ Pink
Agapathus Blackjack™
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Better Boxwood® Skylight™
Begonia Stonehedge Rose Bronze Leaf
Nepeta Chartreuse
Nepeta Chartreuse on the Loose
Hydrangea paniculata Sweet Starlight™ (Photos courtesy of National Garden Bureau)

National Garden Bureau Choices

Just as there are People’s Choice winners for other topics, the National Garden Bureau (NGB) has ‘People’s Choice’ Green Thumb Award Winners for plants, voted on by gardeners worldwide for their outstanding garden-enhancing qualities. The 2024 winners include:

  • Annual: Petunia AMAZONAS™ Plum Cockatoo
  • Perennial: Agapanthus Blackjack™, Zones 8-11.
  • Shrub: Better Boxwood® Skylight™, Zones 5-9. Also a recommendation from Bunting at PHS.
  • Product: Sunshine® Black Bear™ Potting Mix

In addition to its People’s Choice winners, NGB also awards ‘Professional Choice’ Green Thumb Award Winners. These winners have been carefully reviewed and voted on by NGB members for outstanding qualities. The 2024 winners include:

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  • Annual: tie for Begonia Stonehedge Rose Bronze Leaf (pictured above) and Centaurea The Bride
  • Perennial: Nepeta Chartreuse on the Loose, Zones 3-8 (pictured above)
  • Shrub: Hydrangea First Editions Eclipse®, Zones 5-9 (pictured above). Also a recommendation from Bunting at PHS.
  • Product: Laura’s Edition 3” x 36” Auger

Wondering what else is new? Perhaps a customer loves azaleas and you’d love to “wow” them with a new variety? NGB has a searchable database of new plant varieties. It includes 616 annuals (including vegetables and herbs), 168 new perennials, and 116 new shrubs. You can search by year of introduction back to 2020, common plant name, or plant type. (It also includes houseplants.) Pictures are included, which makes easier landscape design and customer interaction. Find it here.

Happy planting in 2024!

Note: The USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Map was updated last November, the first time since 2012. About half the country has shifted to the next warmer half zone.
More details here.

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