Garden Guy: New plants for 2023 to start dreaming about now

Monday, March 13, 2023

Bruce Bennett, Garden Guy
By Bruce Bennett

New plants are usually improvements on existing plants and offer better disease resistance, or more flowers or larger leaves, or……Well, you get the picture.
Sometimes it’s just a new color or a different size. New plants aren’t always better, but, to a gardener, they are always exciting and noteworthy. 

As in past several years, I offer readers a very short list of plant introductions that I’ve seen at test sites, growers’ fields and nurseries, not to mention the Northwest Flower and Garden Festival, plants which will begin to show-up at local garden centers. 

The problem with most ‘new introduction’ lists is the plants may be just coming on the market and finding them is a catch-as-catch-can situation. If nothing else, gardening teaches someone new to the hobby and adventure the development and virtues of patience. 

Gardeners not only experience the ‘thrill-of-the-hunt,’ if they wait long enough, they also experience the thrill of ‘saving a buck.’ The $50 daylily I just had to have from a specialty hybridizer eventually appeared on a Flower World display table at $15. It was definitely a case of instant gratification over-powering my economic common sense (and, yes, it was worth it). 

Whether or not I buy, it’s always fun to see what plant breeders have come up with and imagine where I would place it in my yard or a client’s.

During my travels, I look for plants that have more than just one reason to purchase them

A long bloom time is great, but I’d also want, drought-tolerance, or new colors or evergreen status. Considering what plants, especially new ones, cost these days, I want as many enhancements as can be added. 

So, for your general consideration, here's my thumbnail list of new plant introductions with multiple notable attributes, from the major plant groups of trees, shrubs, perennials and, even, an annual which may pique your developing horticultural interest…..

As trees have a longer development phase, not as many new stars reach the marketplace each year as do, say, annuals. However, that doesn’t mean there are no new candidates. 

New specimens that have caught my eye include….

I thoroughly like crabapple trees in the landscape.
They are of a size that is appropriate for most yards and street sides and are moderately fast growers. This year, Malus transitoria ‘Royal Raindrops’ joins the family. This crabapple has multiple aspects about it to like. The first is deep purple cutleaf foliage that does not move to a green coloration during the season. 

For those who eschew the use of chemicals in the yard, this sweetie has superior disease resistance to rust, mildew, etc. Like most established crabapples, ‘Royal Raindrops’ is drought tolerant. With our summers, that is a good thing. The value-added elements of this tree bookmark the growing season. Spring brings with it eye-popping magenta pink blooms that cover the tree. Autumn brings with it little red apples. 

As the fruit are just ¼” in size, birds will love them and will provide homeowners with a month or two of avian aerial aerobics as the birds devour the seasonal morsels. The two- and four-footed members of the family enough the free show for weeks on end. 

Honorable Mentions go to: Birch ‘Emerald Flare’, Parrotia ‘Golden Bell Tower’ and Cercis ‘Black Pearl.’

In the category of new shrubs, you can usually find something interesting to grace an underused spot in the landscape. For this year, what has spoken to me ……

Daphnes are always a value-added inclusion to an area near the front door or along a walkway.

The mid-winter fragrance of winter daphne is not to be missed. The same can be said for the spring-blooming cousins. 

In this case, the winter variety, Daphne odora ‘Perfume Princess’ is the one I came across. This long-blooming cultivar, with purplish buds and clusters of soft pink flowers, is a winner. 

Expect the traditional intoxicating daphne fragrance but with distinct citrus undertones. The Princess grows to about 3’ tall and as wide. Honorable Mentions include: Hibiscus ‘Valentine’s Crush’ (Rose Mallow), Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Cherry-Go-Round’ and Ilex verticulata ‘Gold Winterberry’

In the world of new Perennials, among the many that caught my eye……

Salvia greggli
Salvia greggii ‘Ultra Violet’ is a new hybrid western sage
that is more cold hardy than the standards. 

It is also more compact than so many of the S. greggii that are on the market. It has iridescent, deep purple flowers that add a pop of color to the yard, especially in ta late summer garden. 

It starts blooming in July and will continue through autumn. This 18” x 24” sage is a top perennial for dry sites, establishes easily and is both rabbit and deer resistant. Watch as it attracts bees, butterflies and other pollinators. 

Honorable Mentions include: Euphorbia x ‘Miner’s Merlot’, Veronica prostrata (Creeping Speedwell) ‘Aztec Gold’ and Sedum ‘Little Shine.’

Finally, in the Annuals category, ……..

Rex Begonia
Jurassic Heartbeat
I am not a gardener who usually has an interest in annuals, but I couldn’t resist adding this Rex Begonia ‘Jurassic Heartbeat’ because…. well, just look at it! Whether on a shelf in the house or in a shady outdoor container, this amazing plant will be a ‘WOW’ moment for any who see it

There are so many plants which will be vying for your attention at garden centers and nurseries this year. Remember to look past the first visual impression they give you. What other value-added qualities can they provide to you, the landscape and/or the beneficial insects who inhabit your yard? 

A bit of observation and Google research will help to provide you with the best bang for your horticultural buck. 

Happy gardening! If you have a question about this column or your own landscape, or care to suggest a topic to be discussed, contact Master Gardener, Bruce Bennett, at


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