Wed. May 18th, 2022

Best New Plants: Perennials

Each year we do a feature in our big spring issue introducing folks to a slew of new offerings from plant breeders. But this is not simply a list of plants that we think look interesting. Our standards here at Fine Gardening are higher. We interview breeders, marketers, and the heads of trial gardens across the country to dig deeper into why a particular new plant is worthy of praise. Below, you’ll find the best new perennials. Which new plants are right for you? Read on to find out.

If you want some sparkle in the shade, look no further

Sterling Moon begonia
Photo: courtesy of Plants Nouveau; Illustration: jemastock/dreamstime.com

‘Sterling Moon’ begonia

Name: Begonia ‘Sterling Moon’

Zones: 6b–9

Size: 24 to 30 inches tall and 24 inches wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

The goal of breeder Ozzie Johnson was to develop a series of begonias with stunning foliage that were hardy to at least Zone 7. Mission accomplished. Looking more like a houseplant rex begonia, hardy ‘Sterling Moon’ has large, deeply textured leaves with an almost iridescent quality. The large pink blooms show up in midsummer and only add to the allure of this plant.

Introduced by: Plants Nouveau

All of the best hostas combined into one

Twice as Mice hosta
Photo: courtesy of Plant Delights Nursery

‘Twice as Mice’ hosta

Name: Hosta ‘Twice as Mice’

Zones: 3–8

Size: 5 inches tall and 15 inches wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

Did you ever wish you could put all your favorite hostas into a blender and create one super variety? Well, that’s basically what Plant Delights Nursery did. This baby is a cross that involves ‘Blue Hawaii’, ‘Blue Mouse Ears’,’Swoosh’, ‘Invincible’, and ‘Gemstone’ hostas, just to name a few. The result is a disease-resistant, ultra-hardy mini-hosta with incredible variegation.

Introduced by: Plant Delights Nursery

Better hardiness from a cutting-garden classic

Golden Tiara princess lily
Photo: courtesy of perennialresource.com

‘Golden Tiara’ princess lily

Name: Alstroemeria ‘Golden Tiara’

Zones: 5b–9

Size: 3 to 4 feet tall and 5 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: South America

When it comes to perennial cutting-garden plants, there is no better option than princess lily. Unfortunately, most princess lilies are hardy only to Zone 7 (6b if you’re lucky). So Plant Delights Nursery shipped this plant to Walters Gardens in Michigan and told them to put it to the test in their Zone 5b fields. Not only did it survive, but it thrived and put on quite the show, with flower stalks reaching 45 inches tall.

Introduced by: Plant Delights Nursery


Buying tip: Can you trust the advertised zonal range and size of new plants? Maybe. Perennials are usually tested for a few years to get those numbers right. Trees and shrubs are more fluid.


For texture in the shade, this fern has no rivals

Jurassic Pterodactyl eared lady fern
Photo: courtesy of Monrovia®

Jurassic™ Pterodactyl eared lady fern

Name: Athyrium otophorum cv.

Zones: 6–9

Size: 18 inches tall and wide

Conditions: Partial to full shade; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Japan

Is it the unique coloring of this fern that accentuates the texture so acutely? Perhaps. A new introduction from plant explorer Dan Hinkley, this eared lady fern has pale green fronds, red stems, and new growth that emerges pink. Add in some purple highlights, and you have a fluffy mass that is bound to attract attention.

Introduced by: Monrovia®

Just like a soda, this low-care ground cover is sweet as can be

Orange Crush ice plant
Photo: courtesy of Must Have Perennials®

‘Orange Crush’ ice plant

Name: Delosperma ‘Orange Crush’

Zones: 4–8

Size: 4 to 8 inches tall and 12 to 18 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

This adorable succulent is a sport of the popular cultivar Fire Spinner , which won multiple awards and was inducted into the Plant Select program a few years back. ‘Orange Crush’ offers a more subdued color, without the splashy bright magenta eye. The soft tangerine blossoms with a pale pink center remind us of a Creamsicle, but this drought-tolerant perennial won’t melt when temps soar above 90°F.

Introduced by: Must Have Perennials®

“Otherworldly” best describes this rock-garden wonder

Colorockz Arctic White hens and chicks
Photo: courtesy of Concept Plants

Colorockz® Arctic White hens and chicks

Name: Sempervivum ‘Belsemcob2’

Zones: 4–9

Size: 4 inches tall and 6 inches wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

We can’t help but think that this plant looks like a pile of moon rocks—and that’s a good thing in our book! Colorockz  Arctic White hens and chicks has silver cobwebbing covering the clusters of green rosettes year-round, giving it an almost ghostly appearance. When it is paired with any red-hued hens and chicks, the effect is magical. Just remember that this hardy succulent needs good drainage.

Introduced by: Concept Plants

Contrasting hues is this sedum’s secret sauce

Coraljade sedum
Photo: courtesy of Proven Winners® Color Choice®

‘Coraljade’ sedum

Name: Hylotelephium ‘Coraljade’

Zones: 3–9

Size: 16 to 18 inches tall and 2 to 3 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun; well-drained soil

Native range: Hybrid

Yes, it can be hard to get excited about an upright sedum. But there is no denying how tough a plant it can be. ‘Coraljade’ offers up a bit of something interesting with its dark purple-green foliage and pinkish orange flowers. The combination is intriguing among this stalwart group of plants.

Introduced by: Proven Winners® and Walters Gardens

We dare you to find a catmint with larger blossoms

Summer Magic catmint
Photos: courtesy of Plants Nouveau

‘Summer Magic’ catmint

Name: Nepeta grandiflora ‘Summer Magic’

Zones: 4–9

Size: 15 to 18 inches tall and wide

Conditions: Full sun; moist, well-drained soil

Native range: Europe, Asia

This beauty was short-listed for the New Plant Award at RHS Chelsea Flower Show in 2013—and for good reason. It has a sturdy habit that supports huge flower wands from mid-spring through fall. According to those trialing it, there isn’t an ugly midsummer phase as is common with other catmints. We’re as happy as the bees are that this perennial finally made it across the pond to North America.

Introduced by: Plants Nouveau

Cool coloring on an already super cool plant

Waikiki elephant’s ear
Photo: courtesy of Plant Delights Nursery

‘Waikiki’ elephant’s ear

Name: Colocasia esculenta* ‘Waikiki’

Zones: 7–11

Size: 3-1/2 feet tall and 5 feet wide

Conditions: Full sun to partial shade; moist soil

Native range: Tropical eastern Asia

The Fine Gardening editors would likely fight each other over any samples of this plant that came into our offices. Just when you thought the bold, bodacious elephant’s ear couldn’t get any better, in steps ‘Waikiki’ with its supernova of color. The leaves emerge almost black and then transition to green as the white centers develop simultaneously. Purple ribs eventually appear in the middle of the white splash as the foliage ages. Plant Delights Nursery has a huge selection of elephant’s ear but still said, “This is probably the most unique and dazzling elephant’s ear we’ve grown to date.”

Introduced by: Plant Delights Nursery


*Invasive alert:

Elephant’s ear (Colocasia esculenta)

This plant is considered invasive in AL, CA, and FL.

Please visit invasiveplantatlas.org for more information.

Published at Fri, 01 Apr 2022 15:47:15 -0400

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