Gardening trends for 2020? Think unconventional, sustainable

Dean Fosdick

AP – Gardeners in 2020 will veer from the beaten path, opting for unconventional varieties and eco-conscious surroundings, according to a plant trends study by horticulturalists with the University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS).

Their forecast is based largely on market observations and feedback from people seeking information from Extension offices.

Interest is strong for native plants, dwarf hybrids, ‘re-wilding’ gardens, edible settings, wildlife-friendly landscapes, dark foliage, succulents, novel greens, landscaping for natural disasters, and softer, leafier floral arrangements, the horticulturists said.

“More and more folks are thinking about sustainability,” said Mark Tancig, a UF/IFAS agent based in Leon County.

“They want to plant things that don’t require as much water or fertiliser,”he said. “Plants that resist disease and insects. Plants that provide for wildlife use and need less maintenance and input. That not only saves money but it looks good, too. It’s restorative to the environment.”

This June 15, 2015 photo shows a dwarf hybrid blueberry plant growing in a container on a residential sidewalk near Langley, Washington. PHOTOS: THE WASHINGTON POST
This June 15, 2015 photo shows some different varieties of Huecheras growing around a birdbath and split rail fence near Langley, Washington

Breaking down the study’s trending Top 10:


These plants original to a specific place generally are lower maintenance, requiring less water, pruning and fertiliser.


Gardeners without a lot of living space increasingly are choosing the dwarf varieties of their favourite plants. They also require less pruning.


To encourage beneficial insects and the health of your garden, allow shrubs to return to their natural shapes, let grass grow longer and permit a few weeds to flower, said Horticulture agent for Pinellas County Theresa Badurek. “Some of those volunteer weeds may be great wildflowers.”


Fruit-bearing plants, ornamental vegetables and edible flowers do double duty, adding beauty as well as nutrition to the home landscape.


Flowers combined with foliage are gaining in popularity. “We are going away from the bundle bouquet of solitary flower blooms to the soft, organic feel of greenery,” said Karen Stauderman, an Extension horticulture agent for Volusia County.


“Most contemporary landscapes lack diversity, so gardeners should choose a variety of plants that flower and fruit,” Badurek said. Plants with berries attract birds, and layering plants of varying heights provides hiding places for other species.


Plants with red, purple or black leaves are striking additions to any landscape, making them attractive to gardeners looking for something new in 2020, said Marguerite Beckford, a horticulture agent in Sarasota County.


People are reaching out for lesser-known succulents that offer interesting shapes, textures and growth habits, University of Florida horticulturists said.


Vegetable gardeners will be looking to diversify their harvests with leafy greens generally grown outside the United States — bok choy, mizuna and komatsuna among them, according to the horticulturists.


“Storms are becoming more erratic and more feared,” Tancig said. “Plant the kinds of trees around your home that reduce risk.”