Reliable favorites, new introductions, and trends to watch.
A new year means new plantings. What are the most popular favorites? What will “wow” your clients? What will be resilient in 2022’s as-yet unknown weather extremes? What might be in short supply? Here are some answers.
First, let’s take a look at 2021’s most popular landscape plant choices.
GoMaterials, which sources plants and trees for landscapers, analyzed their over 600,000 plant units specified last year. They then broke down the top choices of landscapers by region and type of plant.
Here were landscaper favorites in Northern regions:
- Evergreens: white spruce, Norway spruce, emerald green arborvitae, and American arborvitae.
- Perennials: reblooming daylily, anise hyssop, Canadian anemone (or windflower), and big blue lilyturf.
- Shrubs: red twig dogwood, winter gem boxwood, goldflame spirea, and smooth hydrangea.
- Trees: common hackberry, red maple, maidenhair ginkgo biloba, and American linden.
Here were landscaper favorites in Southern regions:
- Evergreens: slash pine, bald cypress, yew pine, and Japanese garden juniper.
- Palm Trees (in Florida and Texas): Florida royal palm, cabbage palm, needle palm, and European fan palm.
- Perennials: super blue liriope, softstem bulrush, and flax lily.
- Shrubs: Chinese privet, green island ficus, cocoplum, and new gold lantana.
- Trees: large-flowered magnolia, gumbo-limbo, dahoon holly, and southern live oak.
New Winning Introductions
As to new 2022 introductions that may one day become old favorites, look to the winners of All-America Selections (AAS). A non-profit, AAS conducts confidential and impartial trials each year of new, not-yet-introduced annuals, ornamentals, perennials, and vegetables throughout North America. In January, two of the twelve 2022 winners were deemed Gold Medal Winners, an honor historically rarely given and reserved for a plant breeding breakthrough.
These plants are:
Begonia Viking™ Explorer Rose on Green F1. This begonia has high impact color and a unique trailing habit of spreading and spilling its branches over the edges of hanging baskets and containers. Prolific rose-colored flowers stand out against glossy green foliage all season long. It has a strong tolerance to heat and many diseases, as well as both wet and dry conditions.
Petunia Bee’s Knees. This intense yellow petunia is filled with lush blooms of non-fading flowers all season long. The yellow color contrasts beautifully against deep green leaves. It offers great garden performance in a variety of conditions and requires very little maintenance. With a versatile mounding habit, it works great in mixed containers, as a hanging basket, or a long-blooming groundcover. “No disease, no deer problem, no breakage from the wind. Great plant!” said one AAS judge. “It withstood the summer heat and tolerated the colder and wetter conditions of the end of the season very well,” commented another.
Other 2022 winners of interest to landscapers include:
National Winner Sunflower Concert Bell F1. A novel blooming habit sets this sunflower apart. Clusters of 10 to 12 golden yellow flowers on an erect columnar stem of five to six feet appear earlier than comparison plants. Excellent seed germination makes it easy to grow and perfect for continuous sowing. Trialed in a year of adverse weather conditions, it received comments from multiple judges on its durability and sturdiness even through strong storms and winds. A perfect choice for a garden border, according to one judge.
Regional Winner Torenia Vertigo Deep Blue F1. This brand new F1 Torenia was deemed ideal for both containers and landscapes. AAS Judges were impressed with the number of flowers on each plant and the non-fading blue petals that contrast with the sky blue and yellow centers. Torenia Vertigo has a compact habit, flowers for a very long period of time, and has glossy green foliage. The large blooms do not fade even when exposed to strong sunlight. Bonus: This torenia performed exceptionally well in warmer climates such as in the Mountain/Southwest and Florida.
Overall Plant Trends
Marc Elliot, GoMaterials CEO and former owner of a landscape construction business for over 10 years, believes these are the five landscaping plant trends to watch in 2022:
1. Wholesale plant shortages are not going away.
Whether it’s trees, shrubs, or perennials, if it’s green and it grows, there isn’t enough to go around. Not only is supply not keeping up with demand growth, it’s actually slowing down. As per the last USDA census, the overall number of farms and horticulture operations has been decreasing for years, with the largest ones expanding too slowly to cover up for losses elsewhere.As a result, the landscape industry needs to come to terms with the fact that wholesale plant shortages aren’t going away. What does that mean? To start with, it’s best to reconsider the traditional size expectations you have for purchased trees and plants. This trend is already picking up. Recently, we observed more freshly-potted materials go out to make up for shortages.
2. Wholesale tree and plant demand remains strong.
2021 was a landmark year for landscaping, and materials demand skyrocketed. Planting continued well into December for most of the regions we cover. Government contracts have been—and are expected to remain—a steady source of business this year. The effects of climate change are hot topics and the goal for many cities is to combat urban pollution through greening.In addition, real estate hit record numbers. This benefits the landscaping industry on both ends of buy and sell. Sellers spruce up their yards to increase curb appeal. Buyers, who are often told to wait a year before major landscaping projects, will be looking to improve their landscapes this Spring. Contracts will come in through multiple avenues, and we’re confident they will remain as strong as last year.
3. Moving against monoculture.
Arborists have always warned against monoculture and the landscaping industry is finally catching up. More and more orders are asking for diverse categories of plants and trees. This is excellent for maintaining soil health and for reducing the bugs and diseases that thrive in monocultures. The caveat is that greater variety makes it harder to fulfill an order. Growers have not yet left the monoculture mind-frame and will take time to catch up as their inventory matures.In the meantime, sourcing large amounts of plants and trees means your business will have to contact more wholesalers. You may even need to expand away from your regional network.In the current market, plant variety can be a blessing in disguise. Plant supply is low, and substitutions have become standard practice. Those with the right strategy to source and coordinate from multiple suppliers will save time and stay ahead of competition.
4. Native plant demand is still rising.
As landscapers, our role in the ecosystem is more important than ever before. With the focus on native plants and trees, we’re on the front lines of providing people with the best options for their area. More demand for native plants can eventually push wholesalers to prioritize them, which is easier on their operations. It can also help reduce transport costs with less shipping of exotics.
5. Urban forests are taking root.
Two trends converge with the rising popularity of urban forests: landscape design using native plants and the desire to combat climate change. Increasingly, empty city plots are being transformed into green spaces. This trend has already gained traction in Europe and Asia. Mini urban forests create a small patch of plant and insect biodiversity in the city. The point is to populate these woods with native plants and let them grow from there. The diversity of the green life reduces carbon emissions in the air at a higher rate than monoculture patches of greenery. For humans, these forests improve mental well-being while providing respite from heat.
Whether it’s old reliables, stunning new selections, or an increased awareness of ecology, the plant you specify for client properties should reflect thoughtful landscape design that sets you apart.
To learn more about Go Materials and how they can help you efficiently source landscape plants and trees, visit gomaterials.com. To learn more about All-America Selections and where to buy winners, visit all-americaselections.org. To buy AAS winners, click on a plant’s page to find retailers. For instance, petunia bees knees is available from Burpee and Ferry Morse. The full list of AAS retailers can be found at all-americaselections.org/buy-winners/.
Share your thoughts in the Comments section below, or send an e-mail to the Editor at [email protected].