Plant trends to watch—and work—for 2024
Capitalizing on consumer plant trends keeps you steps ahead of the pack.
We always keep an eye open for new varieties and top plant trends each year. From CAST in spring through Cultivate and summer’s flood of university trial results, we’re watching to see what breeders debut and how consumer tastes shift. By fall, distinct trends always take shape. This year, we have four top contenders for trends to capitalize on in 2024.
- Native plants – If you’ve been with us for a while, you know we’ve been talking about the native/nativar plant boom for a few years. In fact, we may have to stop calling it a trend. This one seems here to stay for good. But demand for natives keeps growing, as do the nuances of what native-hungry consumers want. Landscapers and garden retailers tell us consumers have moved past simple requests for drought tolerance and pollinator plants.
Offering North American natives isn’t enough; consumers want natives from the specific regions where they live. They’ve also learned some nativars are pollinator-unfriendly, due to features that attract oohs and aahs at the expense of nectar and pollen. Bottom line? Get on the bandwagon, but know your region, know your natives, and know your customers first. Find that one person on your staff who loves natives and biodiversity. Get them involved in your production and marketing plans.
- Colorful chameleons – Lush, luxuriant color never goes out of fashion with consumers. Neither do unexpected hues in flowers and foliage best described as novelties. This season has seen plenty of new varieties that fall into one—or both—categories. Heuchera ‘Changeling’ epitomizes this trend for foliage. Every week or so, its colors shift to bring new surprises, from blush pink and cherry, through champagne and taupe, to multiple shades of green, all accented by a silver veil.
Another standout example from the season is Prairie Blaze Vintage Lime, a compact, first-year flowering, open-pollinated seed Echinacea. This one’s been making waves since spring, thanks to pink and lime-green rings around its pollinator-friendly cone. Plants like this tick off multiple boxes for your landscaper and retailer customers and end-consumers. Make sure your catalog hits the high points your entire extended customer base needs to know.
- Extreme measures – Smaller, more compact growth has been a major plant breeding goal for the last several years, to the delight of gardeners with limited space. These convenient, compact growers continue flooding the market. But some notable exceptions hint at change. One example is the 2024 Perennial Plant Association’s Plant of the Year: statuesque and sturdy nativar Phlox paniculata ‘Jeana’ at 5 feet tall and 4 feet wide.
At the other extreme, 2-inch plants continue exploding in popularity. If you thought they’d lose their appeal beyond miniature gardeners, think again. Some consumers want them for their small size alone. Others simply want to watch plants grow. And while tropicals, including mini orchids, dominate this tiny niche, some garden retailers tell us consumers are seeking smaller perennials, trees, and shrubs—not to save money, but to nurture as they grow. Take note: Some growers are marketing their elfin offerings as Gen Z plants.
- Cut-flower favorites – Consumer appetites for fresh-cut bouquets, from their own garden or someone else’s field or greenhouse, continue increasing as 2024 draws near. More and more growers are entering the cut-flower category as part of their diversification plans. Some are growing and selling cut flowers themselves. Others are growing varieties for end consumers to plant and cut at home. More than one young plant grower launched a specialty cut-flower division to grow liners destined for greenhouses, cut-flower fields, and backyards.
Making the cut takes more than pretty blooms. Shoot for strong stems, sturdy petals, long vase life and, in a relatively new twist, pollen-free flowers to prevent stains or allergic reactions once cut flowers reach their final home.
As with all these trends, plants that fall in multiple categories deliver the best bang for your production dollars. You get the idea—natives or nativars with striking color and stature that make great cut flowers, too. Give your customers a hand by providing those marketing and selling points, and you’ll be glad you did.
Here at ICL Growing Solutions, we’re looking forward to the months ahead and watching new plant trends take hold. Thanks to innovative breeders and devoted gardeners, including a new generation coming on, there’s always something new. In the meantime, we look forward to seeing you, at home and on the road, and helping you and your plants grow.