My introductions to new plants come from an array of sources—trial garden visits, emails from growers and colleagues, gardening presentations, garden catalogs, etc. Sometimes, the plants themselves (or seeds) arrive on my doorstep to trial. The seeds will be started under grow lights in spring or direct-sown in the garden. The annuals and perennial plants I dig into gardens or arrange in pots. Then, I watch them closely to see how they perform in my growing zone and take a lot of pictures to share with fellow green thumbs. I love to share my experiences with new favorites, as well as plants that are on my ever-expanding “must-grow” list.
Back in 2017, I got a behind-the-scenes look at how growers come up with new plant introductions, while attending the California Spring Trials with the National Garden Bureau. That trip gave me an extra sense of appreciation for the work that goes into plant breeding. This article is where I discuss the eye-catching new plants that cross my radar each year.
New plants for 2023
Echinacea Artisan Yellow Ombre
I grow a lot of echinacea plants on my property. I have a rainbow of blooms, from pink and red to yellow and orange. This one was a standout in my dry front yard perennial garden. It’s an All-America Selections regional winner that is low maintenance and hardy down to -30 °F (-34.4 °C). The plants attract pollinators throughout the growing season, and when they start to dry out, also provide great fall and winter interest.
Yukon Sun rose
I’ve written about some of the modern roses that have been bred to have greater pest and disease resistance, as well as being quite hardy in cold climates. In 2023, Vineland Research and Innovation Centre, is introducing its latest addition to the 49th Parallel Collection: Yukon Sun. This gorgeous rosebush with yellow blooms is compact, growing about one meter high (39 inches) by one meter wide. It is hardy down to -31°F (-35°C).
Leucanthemum Carpet Angel
I tend to gravitate towards frilly and flouncy things. This extends to flowers, with Leucanthemum Carpet Angel being a clear must-have. This 2023 All-America Selections Perennial winner that is hardy down to -30 °F (-34.4 °C) is the first groundcover shasta daisy. It will spread up to 20 inches (51 cm) wide and bloom all season long.
Sun Dipper tomato
Since I also get to trial veggies, I couldn’t help but include this indeterminate tomato to my plant list. One Sun Dipper plant gave me an abundance of its savory small tomatoes. I was harvesting well into October. It’s hard to describe the shape. These tomatoes are a bit oblong and narrower at the top. The plant is also resistant to some tomato plant diseases.
Dragon Wing White Begonia
If there was a standout in my container gardens this year, it was this Dragon Wing White Begonia. Niki had high praise for it, too: “Begonia Dragon Wing White was a standout on my partly shaded deck. I tucked a single plant in a 12-inch diameter pot and by mid-summer, it had filled the container and was about 15 inches tall and wide.” This is definitely an annual worth growing in pots or hanging baskets.
Cracker Jack Hybrid Organic Watermelon
I get both seeds and seedlings from William Dam Seeds, my local go-to. I love to see what’s new in their catalog each winter. This seedless watermelon, Cracker Jack Hybrid, is early to mature, which is great if you live somewhere with a shorter growing season.
‘Dark Side of the Moon’ Astilbe hybrid
Astilbe, aka false goat’s beard feature fluffy, feathery flowers that attract bees. ‘Dark Side of the Moon’ features rich, chocolate foliage with elegant pink and burgundy flowers. Plant it in a garden with consistently moist soil that gets about six hours of filtered sun in a day.
Ruby Ruffle Patio Peach
I was reading about some new roses and a hydrangea from Star Roses & Plants when I spotted this intriguing, compact, ornamental peach tree. Ruby Ruffle grows clusters of vibrant pink blooms in spring before developing long, slender and slightly ruffled foliage throughout the rest of the growing season.
New plants for 2022
Spanish lavender (Lavandula stoechas) Primavera
I think this was my favorite new plant plant that I trialled for 2022, probably because I planted it in my new favorite terracotta pot. I loved the flouncy blooms, or “flags” as they’re called, that wave above the flowers of ‘Primavera’ from Darwin Perennials. The foliage still looked healthy, and there were still a few flowers when I went to overwinter the pot in late fall (it’s an annual here, because it’s only hardy down to USDA zone 7). The blooms attract bees and butterflies, and the plant loved its sunny spot on my front porch area.
Leucanthemum ‘White Lion’
This perennial beauty is called “the spring Shasta” on the grower’s website. Which means White Lion is a long-blooming, three-season perennial that will start its show in late spring. A new introduction from Kieft Seed, my two shasta daisy plants bloomed through the end of October in my front yard garden. Happy in full sun, it is hardy down to USDA zone 3b and extremely drought tolerant.
I grow some type of Cosmos every year from seed (and sometimes I’m lucky to get volunteer seedlings coming up the following year). ‘Apricotta’, with its lush, pink flowers with hints of apricot and yellow are on my must-grow list. A new variety from William Dam Seeds, they will bloom through the first frost.
‘Frill Ride’ Bigleaf Hydrangea
I can never resist a ruffle or a frill, so out of all the new hydrangeas Bloomin’ Easy is releasing for 2022, I couldn’t resist ‘Frill Ride’. This big-leaf hydrangea features enormous deep-pink, frilly flowers. I imagine they’d look pretty stunning in a dried arrangement, too. This shrub is hardy down to zone 5 and prefers part sun (three to four hours a day of sun in the morning, with filtered sun the rest of the day). It grows to be about two to three feet tall and equally wide.
Easy Wave Sky Blue Spreading Petunia
Depending on the light, and I suppose, the plant (because sometimes certain growing conditions can affect the blooms), the Easy Wave Sky Blue petunia looks a lot like Very Peri, the Pantone Color of the Year. What I liked this plant was its contrast and slightly unusual blue-ish hue in a couple of my containers. The plants bloomed throughout the hot summer and into fall. They also spread nicely in a garden.
Suncredible Saturn Sunflower
This bright, cheerful Helianthus hybrid is everblooming, meaning season-long blooms. Part of the new Proven Winners lineup, the website suggests planting these as a living screen or along a fence. Plants reach up to three feet in height. Plants aren’t super fussy—they like rich soils, but will grow in poorer soils. These drought-tolerant beauties also make great cut flowers and attract bees and butterflies.
Zinnia Profusion Red Yellow Bicolor
My love of zinnias is well documented, and this All-America Selections Winner for 2021 (and Fleuroselect Gold Medal award winner) was a winner in my garden, too. Profusion Red Yellow Bicolor technically counts as new as some seed catalogs are just starting to showcase it for 2022! The plant lived up to the “profusion” series part of its name because of the multiple blooms. It thrived in both my raised beds and my hot, dry front yard garden. Plants are a fairly compact size, with a mounding habit that supports lots of flowers. The details in the petals look hand drawn.
New plants for 2021
Aurora Borealis rose
I love the advances that have been made in rose breeding over the last several years to create hardy roses that have greater pest and disease resistance. This new kid on the block, from Vineland’s 49th Parallel Collection was developed really close to my home, too. I feel a certain pride when I tell people about this compact shrub. Aurora Borealis is the third rose in this collection.
The Velvet Fog Smokebush
I have a thing for texture, so the fluffy, soft-looking plumes of smokebushes always catch my eye. This one is pretty spectacular and apparently grows more flowers than a conventional smokebush. Clouds of pinky-red seem to hover atop the blue-green foliage of this showy shrub. Mature plants range from 60 to 96 inches (152 to 244 cm) tall and should be planted in part sun to full sun.
I don’t think I’ve even seen such a profusion of blooms all together in a columbine plant, in such a short little tidy clump. And you can see their faces! The blooms are so stunning, on all three from this series: Purple Yellow, Blue White, and Red Yellow. These plants are hardy down to zone 3a!
Midnight Cascade blueberry
Why do I have a blueberry bush in an article about new ornamentals? Well I’ve always found Bushel and Berry’ berries to be both edible AND ornamental. And this is the first-ever hanging basket blueberry! The flowers in spring are white and shaped like bells—they remind me of lily-of-the-valley—and the hints of red in the leaves deepen towards the fall.
Echinacea ‘Sweet Sandia’
I’m a sucker for green flowers. ‘Sweet Sandia’ is a pretty groovy-looking flower introduction with both green AND pink petals. They’re described on Terra Nova Nurseries’ website as “a slice of watermelon.” Hardy down to USDA zone 4, these pollinator magnets bloom from July through October.
Lilac New Age™ White
Lilac is my favorite scent of spring. So I’d be all over adding another lilac bush to my property. I love how delicate the blossoms are on this white lilac. It is compact, resistant to mildew (a huge bonus, because by mid-summer, the bottom leaves on mine usually have it) and is hardy down to USDA zone 4.
Phlox Super Ka-Pow™ White
Another white choice, but I was quite taken with the soft, delicate white petals with a hint of pink in the centers of this new phlox. The petals may look dainty, but this is one tough plant that is frost tolerant—and hardy down to USDA zone 4b—rabbit and deer resistant, resistant to powdery mildew, and best of all, low maintenance. It also attracts bees and butterflies.
Petunia Headliner Crystal Sky
Growing up, I think my mom had something like five standard colors of petunias to choose from for her gardens—purple, white, pink, etc. But the options now are pretty fun. I think plant breeders enjoy trying to outdo each other each year. When I went to the California Spring Trials, I was amazed at the breadth of petunia varieties on display. But that’s where I developed a new appreciation for this popular annual. The possibilities are endless!
High Noon® Bush Daisy
When I’m choosing annuals for my patio containers or to fill holes in my garden beds, I’m looking for plants with that “wow” factor. A conversation starter. This is one of those plants that immediately draws you in. It’s a thriller. And despite the monochromatic yellow hue, the entire flower is interesting.
Calibrachoa Cha-Cha™ Diva Hot Pink
Calibrachoas consistently make it into my container arrangements each year. There are so many varieties, but I love the ones that look like a teeny tiny paint brush was used to design each petal. The blooms of sun lover Cha-Cha will cascade over your pots as a bloom-filled spiller, showing off right until those first frosts.
Foliage Celosia Sol™ Collection Gekko Green
I’m always on the hunt for interesting foliage for my container arrangements. I’ve grown celosia with the fuzzy-looking flowers, but this new variety is a foliage celosia that’s meant to stand on its own. The leaves, which are arranged in clusters that look like flowers, are green and burgundy. They would make a filler in my pots!
New plants for 2020
Superbells Blackcurrant Punch and Double Blue Calibrachoa
Calibrachoas are container plant regulars in my garden, probably because every year yields an interesting new collection of varieties. They make great spillers in both hanging baskets and containers and bloom all season long (without having to deadhead). Often a calibrachoa will determine the color combination of my arrangements. There were two superstars in my garden: Superbells Blackcurrant Punch and Superbells Double Blue, which Proven Winners sent to me to trial.
Blackcurrant Punch is a gorgeous fuchsia hue with a black and yellow center. The black part looks like it was painted on by a leaky felt-tipped pen.
Double Blue was planted in my main urn along with alyssum and a selection of herbs, like trailing rosemary and parsley. It paired nicely with a deep purple salvia, and the purple and mauve Superbena Sparkling Amethyst Improved Verbena.
Wave Carmine Velour Spreading Petunia
I grew this lovely petunia from seed in 2019 and it bloomed through the fall. The color is a vibrant red, but it’s the delicate center pattern that is really stunning when you look at it closely. Part of the Wave family, it’s a 2019 All-America Selections Winner.
I’m fortunate to live near William Dam Seeds, so it’s fun to get a sneak peek of new varieties in their trial gardens. On a tour with flower and herb seed manager Connie Bijl, we headed over to an herb garden where she pointed out ‘Dropshot’ and encouraged the group to taste it. The plant had a licorice flavour that can be used as a tarragon substitute. While you might expect it has flowers, it is all about the feathery foliage.
Coleus Main Street Beale Street
I usually pick up at least one variety of coleus on my yearly garden center travels. Main Street Beale Street is a 2020 AAS Ornamental Winner, the first-ever coleus to win the honour. Apparently the foliage doesn’t fade over the summer and it’s supposed to thrive in full sun and full shade.
UpTown Frosted Strawberry Zinnia
Zinnias are another garden staple that are super-easy to grow from seed. This pink ombré variety is heat tolerant and has excellent disease resistance. Zinnias are pollinator magnets—bees and butterflies love them, and I’ve even seen hummingbirds on the zinnias in my garden. Once they take off, they usually bloom right through the fall. Zinnias also make great cut flowers.
Bright Lights Berry Rose Osteospermum
Speaking of pink, I really loved the blooms on Bright Lights Berry Rose. This variety featured a gradient from white to deep pink, with flecks of orange in the center. They really popped against the deep blue of my Muskoka chairs and outdoor carpet. These heat-tolerant stunners also bloomed for me more than once, the last blooms fading at the end of the fall.
Lavandula Bandera Deep Purple
Generally lavandula comes in light shades of mauve or pink, so this deep purple hue really stands out. I can see it looking great in a light-colored container, paired with lime green foliage. It is long-flowering and self-cleaning (no deadheading required!) and likes the sunshine.
Heuchera NORTHERN EXPOSURE™ Sienna
I’m drawn to standout foliage, so I have a few heucheras throughout my gardens. I love using them in container arrangements and then they’ll eventually make their way into the garden. This one is hardy all the way down to zone 3 and heat tolerant. The leaves start out a vibrant light green with subdued red veins in spring, but evolve to a more orange-chartreuse with a deeper pattern over the summer months. The flowers look quite stunning, too.
New plants for 2019
Echinacea KISMET Raspberry
I like how echinacea plants bloom as ready-made bouquets in the garden. They grow well in my dry front garden, add interesting bursts of color, and the bees love them. The flowers look interesting in all their stages of growth, even as they die off. I deadhead throughout the season, but those last blooms of fall are left in the garden over the winter, so the birds can eat the seed heads. I have planted a few varieties of this perennial over the years, including Cheyenne Spirit. Echinacea KISMET Raspberry, from TERRA NOVA Nurseries, blooms in full sun from early summer until first frost. Apparently, this variety grows well in a container, too.
Zone: USDA 4-9
Panther Ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)
I’ve become a real fan of ninebarks, especially when they bloom. The delicately hued flowers against the deep dark foliage is quite a stunning combo. And it provides a great backdrop for other flowers and foliage, too. This variety from Bloomin’ Easy has sumptuous, black-tinged foliage, loves full sun and has a stronger mildew resistance. Panther Ninebark shrub grows between four and five feet tall, and about two to three feet wide.
Zone: USDA 3
Nasturtium Baby Rose
I sow nasturtium seeds every year among the edibles in my raised beds. Nasturtiums are great triple-duty plants: You can eat the flower petals and leaves; the pollinators love them; and they can be planted as a trap crop for aphids (if you don’t mind sacrificing a plant here and there). I guess a fourth bonus is that no matter which variety you choose, nasturtiums have very unique blooms. A few years ago I was delighted to discover Climbing Phoenix, with its serrated petals, rather than the more scalloped ones you’ll find on most other varieties. Baby Rose, which appears to be a similar rosy hue to the echinacea (hey, I have a type!), is a 2019 AAS winner. This compact plant is a great choice for small spaces and containers.
Chinook Sunrise rose
I love that plant breeders have been working on growing hardy roses for modern gardens. Vineland Research & Innovation Centre in Lincoln, Ontario launched their 49th Parallel Collection with Canadian Shield a few years ago. Chinook Sunrise is black spot tolerant and hardy down to zone 3 (Canada).
Butterfly Coreopsis Incredible
I love when a seed packet yields more than one color of flower. That’s why I enjoyed the Queeny Lime Orange Zinnias I grew in 2018—no flower looked the same. This new introduction from Renee’s Garden, Butterfly Coreopsis Incredible, features a mix of flowers in soft cream, maroon, yellow, and shades of red. This is a pollinator-friendly plant that is deer resistant and that can withstand hot, dry spells.
Superbells Doublette Love Swept Double Calibrachoa
Calibrachoas have become container staples on my property. Each season, I choose at least one variety for a pot or hanging basket. These annuals don’t get leggy, they’re heat tolerant and self-cleaning, and they bloom right through the fall. It looks like someone took a paintbrush and carefully painted white around the edges of this new hot pink variety from Proven Winners. I love details like this. These plants are great “spillers” in containers and will also cascade over hanging baskets—and they attract hummingbirds!
Dahlia Belle of Barmera
I would be remiss if I didn’t include a plant belonging to one of the National Garden Bureau’s “Year Of” series. 2019 is The Year of the Dahlia, so I included this showy new variety from Longfield Gardens. And since my inbox has been flooded with emails showcasing plants that are coral, the new Pantone color of the year, Belle of Barmera checks that box, too. Plant your tubers in sun to partial sun/light shade and wait for the frilly, ruffled blooms.
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