Hot Plants: What to Watch For

Every spring plant companies roll out their new plants, flowers and edibles for retailers and the press. Find out what you need to put on your shopping list.

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The lush blooms of 'L.A. Dreamin'' allow myriad shades of pink and blue to coexist on the same plant, whether you adjust the alkalinity of the soil or not.

L.A. Dreamin' Hydrangea

Gorgeous multicolor L.A. Dreamin' hydrangeas were just some of the exciting plants and flowers that debuted at the 2014 Spring Trials in Ventura, Calif.

Gorgeous multicolor L.A. Dreamin' hydrangeas were just some of the exciting plants and flowers that debuted at the 2014 Spring Trials in Ventura, Calif.

Aristocrats introduce their young girls to society in debutante balls, and plant folk have a similar ritual: the annual Spring Trials event held every spring in California. At Spring Trials new plant and flower introductions are shown off for a bow and curtsy to retailers and press from around the world.

The Spring Trials are a chance to eyeball interesting new introductions like a lush hydrangea variety, L.A. Dreamin', that will produce colorful blue and pink blooms no matter what your soil type, and Big Bounce impatiens that, as the name suggests, bounce back from wilt, can resist downy mildew and thrive in both sun and shade. But Spring Trials are so much more: The event is also a chance to talk garden trends and hear about the top-of-mind concerns of the horticultural decision-makers responding to their customers' needs. Some of the top trends spied at this year's Spring Trials: 

Rose Shapes in Non-Rose Flowers

Roses are notoriously hard to grow and intimidating for some gardeners. So growers are creating flowers that give that rose-like look without the work. Case in point: a new double blossom calibrachoa for 2015, the 'Mini Famous Double Purple' calibrachoa boasting a profusion of lush blooms.

Containers Are Hot 

Premixed containers like the Mix Masters series take the guesswork out of what goes together and give you something ready to pot up in a container for a party or to bring a blast of color to your yard. One plant expert talked about the difference between European gardeners who like to watch plants go from green and blossom-free to flowering, and Americans, who tend to like their plants with blossoms firing on all cylinders and party-ready. It's just one of the many fascinating observations you can pick up at Spring Trials.

Small-Space Gardening 

Edibles are becoming miniatures as well as lighter to better climb container trellises and to be better able to thrive on patios, balconies and even fire escapes. Growers were in agreement: The new generation of millennial gardeners and aging boomers downsizing to condos and apartments are looking for home vegetable gardens adaptable to small-space living. If you thought that '80s restaurant fad of mini veggies was over, it’s not. Flavor-packed one-serving butternut squash like ‘Honeynut’, tiny eggplant varieties and Tiny ‘Tangerine Dream’ peppers that look like hot peppers in size but have the taste of sweet peppers are making delicious, mini edibles easy to grow for any gardener.

Mixing Edibles and Ornamentals 

Your veggie garden can be so much more than a way to undercut the grocery store with homegrown goodness. Companies like Burpee are encouraging home gardeners to blend ornamentals into their veggie garden design but also take it one step further and design garden beds that incorporate edibles like lettuce, spinach and broccoli as alternatives to ornamentals with texture and color attributes all their own.

Plant Science

New varieties of plants and edibles are bred to combat specific problems, whether downy mildew-resistant Big Bounce impatiens, or zucchini and squash that don’t need increasingly hard-to-come-by pollinators to flower and fruit. All-in-one edibles are popping up in designer pellets that contain multiple seeds in one capsule, whether in the heat-tolerant mix of Asian greens, mustards and bok choi in PanAmerican's ‘Wonder Wok’ lettuce mix or the ‘Endless Summer’ mix of romaine, green and red leaf lettuces. Playing off of the increasing interest in health, Burpee is breeding cucumbers that contain beta carotene as in ‘Gold Standard’ and giving already healthy veggies an additional nutritional boost.

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